E202

Potassium sorbate (potassium salt of sorbic acid)

  • Our verdict: 3 - watch out
  • Origin: It is produced synthetically and does not come from natural sources.

E202, also known as potassium sorbate, is a potassium salt of sorbic acid. It is a widely used preservative in the food industry. Its primary function is to inhibit the growth of molds, yeasts, and bacteria in various food and beverage products. Potassium sorbate is effective in a wide range of pH levels, making it versatile for use in numerous applications. It is colourless, tasteless, and odourless, which means it does not alter the sensory properties of the food to which it is added.

Origin

Potassium sorbate can be of both natural and artificial origin. It naturally occurs in some berries, but the commercial production is typically synthetic. It is manufactured through the neutralization of sorbic acid with potassium hydroxide, producing a stable, white crystalline powder.

Characteristics

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Inhibits the growth of molds, yeasts, and fungi.
  • Wide pH Range: Effective in acidic to neutral environments.
  • Stability: Remains stable and effective over time and under various storage conditions.
  • Non‑altering: Does not affect the taste, color, or aroma of the product.

Uses in Ultra‑Processed Foods:

Potassium sorbate is commonly used in ultra‑processed foods due to its preservative qualities, which help to extend shelf life and maintain product safety. Here’s a detailed look at its applications:

  • Extends Shelf Life: Prevents spoilage and extends the shelf life by inhibiting the growth of molds, yeasts, and bacteria.This ensures products remain safe and consumable for longer periods, reducing waste and increasing product availability.
  • Maintains Freshness: By preventing microbial growth, potassium sorbate preserves the original quality of foods, keeping their taste, texture, and nutritional value intact. This is particularly important for products like cheese, yogurt, and condiments, where microbial spoilage can significantly degrade quality.
  • Cost Efficiency: The use of potassium sorbate helps manufacturers save costs associated with product spoilage and waste. By extending the shelf life and maintaining quality, it reduces the need for frequent product replacements and returns.
  • Versatility: Effective across a wide range of pH levels. Potassium sorbate is effective in both acidic and neutral environments, making it suitable for a diverse range of products, from fruit juices and carbonated drinks to sauces and salad dressings. This versatility allows manufacturers to use a single preservative across multiple product lines.
  • Stability: Potassium sorbate remains stable and effective over time, even under different storage conditions. This stability is crucial for products that may be stored in varying environments, such as refrigerated or room temperature, ensuring consistent preservation.

Health Considerations

While potassium sorbate is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by regulatory authorities like the FDA and EFSA, there are some considerations regarding its consumption:

  • Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, some individuals may experience allergic reactions such as skin rashes or gastrointestinal issues.
  • Digestive Issues: High consumption may lead to stomach upset or diarrhea in sensitive individuals.
  • Long‑term Exposure: There are limited studies on the long‑term effects of consuming large quantities of potassium sorbate, so moderation is advised.
  • DNA Damage: Some in vitro studies have shown that potassium sorbate can cause DNA damage at high concentrations. There is currently a lack of direct evidence showing that potassium sorbate causes DNA damage in humans at typical dietary exposure levels.
  • Male Hormone Health: Prolonged consumption of potassium sorbate (PS) at doses higher than the daily recommended limit of 25 mg per kilogram of body weight can lead to significant adverse effects on male reproductive health and sperm motility.
  • Regulations: Regulatory bodies have established acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels to ensure safe consumption. For example, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has set an ADI of 0‑25 mg/kg body weight.

References

  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS)." FDA.
  2. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). "Scientific Opinion on the re‑evaluation of potassium sorbate (E 202) as a food additive." EFSA Journal.
  3. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). "Summary of Evaluations Performed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives." FAO/WHO.
  4. Emeka, P. M., Chimezie, D. N., & Opeyemi, A. A. (2023). Prolonged consumption of potassium sorbate and its implications on male reproductive health: An in‑depth analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 325, 1‑10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2023.05.019