Food preservative safety overview

Organic program does not oversee the use of food preservatives, so technically this page is slightly outside of the “Organic” topic’s scope – but it is still important to read and know.

Here is the list of the most common preservatives in US food (From: FDA. Let’s review it:

  • Sodium Benzoate: Used in liquids, specifically carbonated drinks, pickles, salad dressings, jams and fruit juice, etc. Combined with citric acid (frequent additive in beverages) it
    transforms into a well known carcinogen Benzine.
    From: FDA

  • Sodium Erythorbate: Environmental pollutant. May
    have a negative physiological effect on seedlings in a low ozone
    (From: EPA)

  • Ascorbic acid (also known as Vitamin C): No problems with it, no risk of overdose: Vitamin C is water soluble, any excess amount will be washed out with urine.

  • Citric acid: Often used as flavoring agent in beverages, in medicine to cover chemical taste. Significant concern: carcinogen (From: National Institute of Health) and damages cells
    (From: NIH)

  • Calcium Propionate and Sodium Propionate:synthetic substance, mold inhibitor. Skin, eye or respiratory irritant. Used in cosmetics, medicine, tobacco, baked goods. (From USDA).

  • Sodium nitrite: Used in meats, sausages, etc. Concerns: 1) developmental and reproductive toxicity (From: California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment) 2) can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain (From: New Jersey’s Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet) 3) When heated while cooking meat, produces Nitrosamines, which are potent carcinogens (From: National Institutes of Health). Sodium nitrite’s uses include the following: as an active oxidizing agent; as a reducing agent; as the principal source of nitrous acid in a number of organic syntheses; to form organic nitrites when reacted with organic alcohols in an acid medium; as an ingredient in the manufacture of inks, dyes, and other chemicals; for curing meat products such as hot dogs; as an additive in the manufacture of synthetic rubbers; in wastewater treatment; in human and veterinary medicine as a vasodilator, a bronchodilator, an intestinal relaxant or laxative, and as an antidote for cyanide poisoning. (From: US International Trade Commission)

  • calcium sorbate: must not be used in cooked sausages or any other meat (From: Code of Federal Regulations) because it could mask meat spoilage (From: USDA). Limited testing shows no mutagenic or genotoxic activity (From: NIH 1, NIH 2 and NIH 3 and FDA)

  • potassium sorbate: mold inhibitor. (from USDA).

  • BHA, BHT: human carcinogen (From: NIH) and gastrointestinal damage (From: NIH)

  • EDTA: – Damages cells /cytotoxic/ (From: NIH1 and NIH 2). Harmful during pregnancy & removes minerals from the body (From: FDA). Persistent environmental pollutant (From: NIH)

  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E): Increases prostate cancer risk (From:

3 Responses to Food preservative safety overview

  1. My understanding of Ascorbic acid (also known as Vitamin C is that is being fabricated in a lab and undergoes the same fermentation process as the Citric Acid and high frutose corn syrup. Please double check your information on ascorbic acid as I believe it to be seriously flawed.

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