Sodium benzoate is a substance which has the chemical formula C6H5COONa. It is a widely used food preservative, with an E number of E211. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water. It can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid.
E211, benzoate of soda
3D model (JSmol)
|E number||E211 (preservatives)|
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||144.105 g·mol−1|
|Appearance||white or colorless crystalline powder|
|Melting point||410 °C (770 °F; 683 K)|
|62.69 g/100 mL (0 °C)|
62.78 g/100 mL (15 °C)
62.87 g/100 mL (30 °C)
71.11 g/100 mL (100 °C)
|Solubility||soluble in liquid ammonia, pyridine|
|Solubility in methanol||8.22 g/100 g (15 °C)|
7.55 g/100 g (66.2 °C)
|Solubility in ethanol||2.3 g/100 g (25 °C)|
8.3 g/100 g (78 °C)
|Solubility in 1,4-Dioxane||0.818 mg/kg (25 °C)|
|GHS Signal word||Warning|
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Flash point||100 °C (212 °F; 373 K)|
|500 °C (932 °F; 773 K)|
|Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):|
LD50 (median dose)
|4100 mg/kg (oral, rat)|
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Sodium benzoate occurs naturally, along with benzoic acid and its esters, in many foods. Fruits and vegetables can be rich sources, particularly berries such as cranberry and bilberry. Other sources include seafood, such as prawns, and dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Sodium benzoate is a preservative, with the E number E211. It is most widely used in acidic foods such as salad dressings (i.e. acetic acid in vinegar), carbonated drinks (carbonic acid), jams and fruit juices (citric acid), pickles (acetic acid), condiments, and frogurt toppings. It is also used as a preservative in medicines and cosmetics. Under these conditions it is converted into benzoic acid (E210), which is bacteriostatic and fungistatic. Benzoic acid is generally not used directly due to its poor water solubility. Concentration as a food preservative is limited by the FDA in the U.S. to 0.1% by weight. Sodium benzoate is also allowed as an animal food additive at up to 0.1%, per the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Sodium benzoate has been replaced by potassium sorbate in the majority of soft drinks in the United Kingdom.
Sodium benzoate is used as a treatment for urea cycle disorders due to its ability to bind amino acids. This leads to excretion of these amino acids and a decrease in ammonia levels. Recent research shows that sodium benzoate may be beneficial as an add-on therapy (1 gram/day) in schizophrenia. Total Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale scores dropped by 21% compared to placebo.
Sodium benzoate is also used in fireworks as a fuel in whistle mix, a powder that emits a whistling noise when compressed into a tube and ignited.
Mechanism of food preservation
The mechanism starts with the absorption of benzoic acid into the cell. If the intracellular pH falls to 5 or lower, the anaerobic fermentation of glucose through phosphofructokinase decreases sharply, which inhibits the growth and survival of microorganisms that cause food spoilage.
Health and safety
In the United States, sodium benzoate is designated as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration. The International Programme on Chemical Safety found no adverse effects in humans at doses of 647–825 mg/kg of body weight per day.
The human body rapidly clears sodium benzoate by combining it with glycine to form hippuric acid which is then excreted. The metabolic pathway for this begins with the conversion of benzoate by butyrate-CoA ligase into an intermediate product, benzoyl-CoA, which is then metabolized by glycine N-acyltransferase into hippuric acid.
Association with benzene in soft drinks
In combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may form benzene. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration tested 100 beverages available in the United States that contained both ascorbic acid and benzoate. Four had benzene levels that were above the 5 ppb Maximum Contaminant Level set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. Most of the beverages that tested above the limit have been reformulated and subsequently tested below the safety limit. Heat, light and shelf life can increase the rate at which benzene is formed.
Research published in 2007 for the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that certain artificial colors, when paired with sodium benzoate, may be linked to hyperactive behavior. The results were inconsistent regarding sodium benzoate, so the FSA recommended further study. The Food Standards Agency concluded that the observed increases in hyperactive behavior, if real, were more likely to be linked to the artificial colors than to sodium benzoate. The report's author, Jim Stevenson from Southampton University, said: "The results suggest that consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colours and sodium benzoate preservative are associated with increases in hyperactive behaviour in children. . . . Many other influences are at work but this at least is one a child can avoid."
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... the preservative used in the study, sodium benzoate, has been replaced by potassium sorbate in the majority of soft drinks.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sodium benzoate.|
- International Programme on Chemical Safety - Benzoic Acid and Sodium Benzoate report
- Kubota K, Ishizaki T (1991). "Dose-dependent pharmacokinetics of benzoic acid following oral administration of sodium benzoate to humans". Eur. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 41 (4): 363–8. doi:10.1007/BF00314969. PMID 1804654.
Although the maximum rate of biotransformation of benzoic acid to hippuric acid varied between 17.2 and 28.8 mg.kg-1.h-1 among the six individuals, the mean value (23.0 mg.kg-1.h-1) was fairly close to that provided by daily maximum dose (0.5 g.kg-1.day-1) recommended in the treatment of hyperammonaemia in patients with inborn errors of ureagenesis
- Safety data for sodium benzoate
- The Ketchup Conundrum