Sodium benzoate (E211)

Sodium benzoate is often hidden under the code name E211 in foods. It has a wide range of applications - from the food industry to the production of cosmetics and pyrotechnic shells. The main property of this additive is the suppression of microflora: bacteria, yeast and fungi. As a food antibiotic, the substance is used to increase the shelf life of products. By its action, it seems to preserve food, which is why it is called a preservative. The most surprising thing about the history and use of sodium benzoate is that, although it is recognized by the international community as a dangerous food additive, it is nevertheless not prohibited at the legislative level in Ukraine, Russia, the USA and many EU countries.

Description of the additive, methods of its synthesis and mechanism of action

Preservative E211 has the form of a white powder, odorless and tasteless, which dissolves well in water. It is obtained as a result of the reaction of benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide: the second substance neutralizes the first, during which the salt is released. The parent element, benzoic acid, is found in small amounts in cinnamon, apples, prunes, and does not pose a threat to the body. Initially, experiments to remove a cheap food preservative began in the 19th century. Then, for this purpose, salicylic acid was used - an expensive, and therefore unprofitable substance for manufacturers.

Sodium benzoate has the ability to inhibit the growth of mold and yeast microorganisms, bacteria, fungi. Cells lose their ability to produce enzymes and break down starch. Redox reactions also stop, and, as a result, any microflora loses its ability to reproduce.

Industrial use

An effective, powerful preservative and antibiotic used in medicines as an expectorant, as well as in the production of pyrotechnic devices, in particular in rockets, to give them a characteristic takeoff sound.

Due to its pronounced antibacterial properties, the substance is often used in the production of perfumery and hygiene products - shampoos, gels, toothpastes.

The aircraft industry uses sodium benzoate as a protective agent for aluminum parts. Tobacco products also contain this substance.This food additive can be found in the following foods:

Of course, the main area where sodium benzoate is used is the production of foods with a long shelf life.

Benefit or harm: what threatens the use of preservative E211

Surprisingly, sodium benzoate is widely used in food production and in most countries is a permitted food additive. Why is it amazing? Because, according to international standards, according to the results of numerous studies, the substance was classified as harmful and dangerous to health. Despite this, manufacturers are not going to abandon the additive, which can cause significant harm to humans. This is probably due to the fact that it has not yet been possible to synthesize a full-fledged and inexpensive replacement, and manufacturing corporations do not want to lose profits from sales of long-term storage products. It becomes clear that there is no need to talk about the benefits of this sodium salt at all - it does not exist. But there is something to be said about the dangers of the substance.


The substance is a toxin and an allergen, and may cause urticaria. It should not be used by people who are allergic to aspirin. For asthmatics, a “meeting” with benzoate threatens with an attack of suffocation and convulsions.

Its main feature is that it is not excreted from the body, but is deposited and gradually accumulates.

The additive has a similar effect on the cells of the human body, as well as on bacteria, that is, it disrupts redox processes in them, the processes of formation of enzymes and the breakdown of fats.

Due to its long-term use, cirrhosis of the liver, Parkinson's disease, kidney failure, neurodegenerative diseases can develop. Sodium benzoate accelerates the aging process.

The use of products with the E211 preservative in the composition is generally not recommended for children, since the substance contributes to the appearance of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a decrease in intellectual abilities.

Combination with other chemical additives in products

In addition to the fact that the preservative itself is not safe, in the company with some sometimes harmless substances, its harmful effect can intensify many times. For example, a mixture of E211 with vitamin C forms a powerful carcinogen - benzene. This substance is not excreted from the body, but accumulating in it, becomes the cause of the appearance of cancerous tumors and the development of leukemia.

Together with another preservative, potassium sorbate, E211 is often used in the manufacture of dairy products. Such a duet exposes the body to a double blow of allergens and toxins, contributes to the appearance of disorders of the nervous system, tumors.

In combination with tartrazine, all the harmful properties of sodium benzoate are enhanced.

The use of E211 with dyes E110, E104, E122 and a number of other similar substances negatively affects the well-being and development of children, therefore, in the EU countries, the issue of introducing a ban on the use of these additives together is now relevant.

Regulations on the content of the substance

The International Chemical Safety Program, which studied the issue of the use of substance E211, through experiments on laboratory animals, came to the conclusion that the amount of food additive calculated 640-825 mg per 1 kilogram of adult weight is acceptable and practically does not harm health. However, the use of several grams per 1 kg of weight for some time can already cause various deviations and diseases.

The level of permissible concentration of a substance in products usually reaches from 0.15 to 0.25%.

It is interesting that sodium benzoate enters the human body not only with food - daily a person inhales up to 220 mg of benzoate from polluted air.

Sodium benzoate is a preservative and antibiotic that acts on the cells of bacteria, fungi and yeast organisms. Its properties are so powerful that almost any product with a long shelf life is made with it.

However, over the past decades, there has been a trend towards a reduction in the use of food additive E211 in food production. To date, research is underway to synthesize a substance with similar properties, but more harmless. In the meantime, this discovery has not happened, many products on store shelves hide a dangerous component that can cause cancer, cell mutations, kidney and liver diseases, allergic reactions, asthma attacks and developmental disorders in children. The consumer can only carefully study the composition of the food that gets on his table in order to protect himself from harmful food additives as much as possible.