Why Is Sorbic Acid Added to Foods?

Sorbic acid is a naturally-occurring food preservative originally isolated from berries. Sorbic acid is added in small amounts to food to prevent mold, fungal and some bacterial growth. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers sorbic acid to be generally regarded as safe, or GRAS. Sorbic acid and its salts are included in a wide range of products including foods and cosmetics.


About Sorbic Acid

Sorbic acid was originally isolated from the berries of the mountain ash or rowan tree, Sorbus aucuparia Rosaceae. In modern times, sorbic acid is synthesized chemically. Sorbic acid should not be confused with other similarly named food additive including sorbitol, polysorbate and ascorbic acid or vitamin C. Sorbic acid has a much more palatable taste than other food additives that prevent microbial growth.

Food Preservation

Sorbic acid and its salts are used commonly to preserve ingredients such as fruit sauces and jellies, beverages, baked good, cured meats, oils and margarines, cereals, dressings, snack foods, fruits and vegetables. Sorbic acid prevents the growth of bacteria, molds and fungi, although certain strains of these microorganisms can degrade sorbic acid. Most food combine sorbic acid with other preservative, salt, sugar and sterile packing conditions to prevent spoilage. Acting as an antioxidant, sorbic acid also prevent non-microbial food spoilage.

Health and Safety

Despite concerns over food additives, sorbic acid and its salts have not been shown to have any adverse health effects when consumed in the amounts present in foods. The FDA has not found that research suggests that food additives such as sorbic acid have no effect in allergies, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder or any other health conditions.

Environmental Safety

Sorbic acid is biodegraded by microorganisms in the environment. Unlike some other food additives, sorbic acid will not accumulate in the ecosystem.


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