Potassium Sorbate Dangers

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Food additives and preservatives exist in nearly every processed food product, yet some people may wonder just how safe these additives are. Many preservatives have known adverse effects. Potassium sorbate is one food preservative generally regarded as safe, although diarrhea may be a negative side effect of consuming too much.

Identification

Potassium sorbate consists of the potassium salt found in sorbic acid and is water soluble. Humans can safely consume 875 milligrams of potassium sorbate a day. Like other food preservatives, potassium sorbate may be found at the end of ingredient lists in packaged foods.

Function

Used as a food preservative, potassium sorbate helps eliminate yeasts and molds in cheese, wine, yogurt, dried meats, apple cider and more. In addition, herbal dietary supplements and personal care products contain potassium sorbate to help maintain quality and consistency in the product. In a study done at the University of Cukurova in Turkey, increased amounts of potassium sorbate had no negative effects on the nutritional value of yogurt, yet decreased amounts caused an increase in molds and bacteria.

Theories/Speculation

According to David Steinem of the "Doctors' Prescription For Healthy Living" newsletter, preservatives can cause health problems, trigger allergic reactions, destroy nutrients in food and cause nausea and diarrhea. Although food additives and preservatives have harmful effects, potassium sorbate is actually considered one of the safer additives because of its long-term safety and non-toxic makeup. Potassium sorbate's toxicity is similar to that of table salt. However, excessive amounts of potassium sorbate may lead to diarrhea.

Alternatives

To avoid food additives, buy fresh, organic produce. Limiting canned foods also will eliminate many of these foods from your diet. When purchasing canned items, always check the ingredients for additives. Steinem says grapefruit seed extract--a natural and potent alternative--is a well-tolerated preservative. Other safe food additives and preservatives include phenoxyethanol, sorbic acid, tocopherol (vitamin E), vitamin A and vitamin C.

Warning

Although potassium sorbate's effects may be minimal, it's important to avoid other food additives, such as sodium nitrate, saccharin, caffeine, olestra, acesulfame K and artificial coloring.

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