Ingredients and chemicals, such as Sodium Benzoate, are used in our foods and cosmetics. But what is safe and what isn’t? This is a particularly engaging topic for me, especially coming from a background where I studied organic chemistry at a degree level. So I thought that I’d share some of these facts with you.
Today I’m going to highlight some facts about Sodium Benzoate.
1. Sodium Benzoate is a salt of benzoic acid. It is produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid.
2. Sodium Benzoate is used as a preservative, mainly a fungicide and bacteriostatic, in food, medicine and cosmetics. It is also known under the name E211.
3. Sodium Benzoate is mostly used in acidic foods like as vinegar, fizzy drinks (carbonic acid), jams and fruit juices (citric acid) and pickles (vinegar).
4. Small trace amounts are naturally found in some foods such as blueberries, apples, cranberries and plums. The chemical seems to show no negative effects in it’s natural and organic state.
5. In May 2007 The Independent newspaper ran a story that sodium benzoate damages the mitochondria in cells. Cellular Mitochondrial damage means damage at a DNA level, this means that the cell growth, development and genetic matter is changed now and for the future. This story is no longer online.
6. When Sodium Benzoate is mixed with ascorbic acid (E300) it reacts to produce the more damaging Benzene, which is a known carcinogen. Unfortunately, many food items have both of these ingredients together as preservatives in their products.
7. In the UK Coca-Cola bowed under public pressure and removed the sodium benzoate from diet coke, and said they are looking to do the same for their other drinks once alternatives are found.
8. The rate at which benzene is formed is affected by light and heat, as well as the amount of time spent on a shelf from production to consumption. This makes measuring and monitoring the amount of benzene in some drinks and foods very hard.
9. From the FSA:
There is no legal limit for benzene in soft drinks in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set a guideline level for benzene in water of 10 μg/kg. Following reports of benzene in some soft drinks in the US, the Food Standards Agency asked the UK soft drinks industry to provide information on levels in soft drinks sold in the UK. The Agency received aggregate summary data from tests carried out on 230 drinks on sale in the UK. The information provided contained limited details. The highest level of benzene found in the industry data was 8 μg per litre of soft drink.
10. Researchers at Southampton University have shown sodium benzoate lowers children’s I.Q. by up to five points. Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has even warned parents that sodium benzoate is a primary cause of hyperactivity in children when mixed with artificial colourings.
The best advice is to check the labels of all products that you buy, particularly if they are juices, fizzy drinks and acidic foods. Check to see if there is Sodium benzoate present and especially if there is also ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
This can also be the case with many healthcare supplements and supplement drinks found in healthfood shops and suppliers. If Coca-cola are revising their products then surely health brands should do the same.
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