FAQ-25: What is potassium sorbate?

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25. What is potassium sorbate?

Potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid. It is made by reacting sorbic acid with potassium hydroxide. This gentle preservative is considered to be safe and mild because of its long term safety record and non-toxic profile. Potassium sorbate is non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Allergic reactions are rare. Besides increasing shelf life, potassium sorbate also inhibits color change in products where the intermixing of certain other ingredients of the product might lead to a color change. Because of its potency, only minute amounts are needed in a product, on the level of less than .2% of the total product. Since the usage is so small, many companies do not declare it because of the de minimis rule of product labeling. Similarly, they don’t declare it if it is used in one of their component ingredients, but they don’t directly add it themselves to the product. It is very unusual for any processed product not to have some amount of potassium sorbate in it.

Potassium sorbate is used to inhibit molds and yeasts in many foods, such as cheese, wine, yogurt, dried meats, and baked goods. It can also be found in the ingredients list of many dried fruit products. In addition, herbal dietary supplement products generally contain potassium sorbate, which acts to prevent mold and microbes and to increase shelf life, and is used in such tiny quantities that there are no known adverse health effects. Labeling of this preservative reads as “potassium sorbate” on the ingredient statement.

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