What Is Sodium Benzoate (E211)? Uses, Safety, Side Effects

What Is Sodium Benzoate (E211)? Uses, Safety, Side Effects

What is sodium benzoate

Table of Contents

Sodium benzoate is a common food preservative and food additive that’s used to prevent spoilage and help enhance the quality of food. Most commonly, sodium benzoate is used in acidic foods, since it’s more stable when exposed to an acidic environment.

What is sodium benzoate in food?

Sodium benzoate is a food additive with the E number E211. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and has the chemical formula NaC7H5O2. ( 1)

Sodium benzoate is a preservative that slows down bacterial growth, so it is commonly found in food, especially acidic foods such as salad dressings and carbonated soft drinks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows sodium benzoate to be used in many foods, including frozen vegetables and fruit juices, carbonated beverages and other beverages (including alcoholic beverages), jams, jellies and toppings, syrups, pickles, canned fruits and vegetables, processed fish products (e.g., luncheon meats), ready-to-eat cereals, ketchup, and mustard.

The FDA says that sodium benzoate can be safely used in these foods at levels up to 0.1%. Because this level may be too high for some people’s taste buds or medical conditions, there are many brands that offer “no added benzoate” products on their labels.

What is sodium benzoate in skincare?

Sodium benzoate is an ingredient that can be found in many skincare products, including moisturizers, sunscreens, cleansers and toners. It also appears in some medications for treating fungal infections like athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) or ringworm (tinea corporis).

The FDA considers sodium benzoate to be safe for use as a preservative at low levels (less than 0.1%). However, it may cause skin irritation if used at high concentrations or on sensitive skin types.

What is sodium benzoate used for?


Sodium benzoate is a preservative used to control bacteria and fungi in foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. It’s also used as a pH adjuster in cosmetics, bath products, mouthwashes, and liquid soaps.

Sodium benzoate is an antibacterial agent found in many foods that can be toxic at high doses. The Food and Drug Administration has set the maximum level of sodium benzoate in foods at 0.1 percent (100 milligrams per kilogram).

Sodium benzoate is also used as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products. The concentration of sodium benzoate used as a preservative in cosmetics is much lower (0.01 percent) than that used in food products (0.1 percent).

How is sodium benzoate made?

Benzoic acid can be chemically synthesized by reacting with sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydroxide.

A brief manufacturing process developed by China’s top manufacturer Grade Chemical is given below( 2):

  1. The neutral reaction between benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide at pH 7.5-8.0 produces crude sodium benzoate
  2. Drying, decolorizing, filtering, and palletizing

The reaction equation is as follows:


Benzoic acid also can be produced by reacting sodium benzoate with hydrochloric acid.

Powder and Granular

There are two forms of sodium benzoate: powdered and granular, but powdered sodium benzoate is easy to cake due to its hygroscopicity and poor fluidity.

How does sodium benzoate work?

Antimicrobial preservative sodium benzoate is most effective against yeast and bacteria, but less effective against mold.

Suitable PH

Generally used in acidic foods and drinks with PH values of 4.0-4.5. As pH decreases, effectiveness increases.

Mechanism of Preservation

In water, sodium benzoate dissolves into benzoate ions and sodium ions.

After this, the benzoate ion combines with the proton to form benzoic acid. It is the undissociated benzoic acid that inhibits.

In addition to entering microorganism cells through the cell membrane, undissociated benzoic acid interferes with microbial cell membrane permeability and disrupts normal metabolism.


Crystalline powder or granular white or colorless, odorless or faintly scented, with an astringent sweet taste.

Other Names

  • Benzoate of Soda
  • Sodium salt of benzenecarboxylic acid
  • Sodium salt of phenylcarboxylic acid

CAS Number


Chemical formula

C7H5NaO2 or C6H5COONa

Molar Mass

144.105 g·mol

Boiling Point

248.00 to 249.00 °C

Melting Point

410 °C

Sodium benzoate structure


Functional Group

Aromatic benzene ring and ester group. Ester groups react easily to other groups.


In water: soluble in water at 53.0 g/100 mL

In organic solvents: sparingly soluble in ethanol (solubility 2.3 g/100 g at 25 °C), methanol, and ethylene glycol; insoluble in the ether as it has a negative charge and ether is a nonpolar solvent.


Benzoic acid has a pKa of 4.2. It is necessary for the pH value to be lower than its pKa for the compound to be inhibited effectively. Basically, a low PH level can turn sodium benzoate into benzoic acid.

Water solutions of benzoate anion and benzoic acid are shown below.


What’s the application of sodium benzoate?

For its antimicrobial and flavor properties, many food products contain sodium benzoate. Besides being used in foods and beverages, it is also added to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Let’s take a closer look at its various applications.


The food industry uses sodium benzoate food grade for:

  • Ensure that your food is not spoiled by harmful bacteria, yeasts, or molds
  • Slow or prevent changes in color, flavor, or texture to maintain freshness
  • The flavor can be adjusted
  • Keep the pH level under control

In all of its food applications, it is primarily used as a preservative for soft drinks to increase their acidity and extend their shelf life.

Coca Cola

The three main preservatives in Coca-Cola’s drink are sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, and potassium sorbate. Antimicrobial properties and taste protection are provided by sodium benzoate. ( 3)


Sodium benzoate is also used in Pepsi carbonated soft drinks to preserve freshness. In PSPsico’s popular sodas, such as Diet Pepsi and Pepsi, its preservative is potassium benzoate, not sodium benzoate.

Other food maybe with it:

  • Salad dressings
  • Pickles
  • Sauces
  • Condiments
  • Fruit juices
  • Wines
  • Snack foods


As with food and drink products, cosmetics require preservatives to prevent bacteria from growing. It is not possible to store natural products for a long period of time because they do not contain preservatives.

A wide variety of cosmetics and personal care products contain sodium benzoate as an anticorrosive, masking, and preservative.( 4)

  • Toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Shampoos, conditioners, etc.
  • Products for skin care, such as sunscreen, moisturizers, creams, and serums
  • Disposable baby wipes

In cosmetics, it is sometimes blended with gluconolactone.

Safety & Usage

In the following cosmetic products with the maximum concentrations of benzoic acid and sodium benzoate, they serve both preservative and non-preservative purposes( 6) [/efn_note]):

  • Rinse-off products: 2.5 %
  • Oral-care products: 1.7 %
  • Leave-on products: 0.5%

In toothpaste.

Preservatives are usually added to toothpaste in order to inhibit the growth of microorganisms. In comparison to other commonly used preservatives in toothpaste, such as methylparaben and ethylparaben, sodium benzoate may be the better choice when considering its antimicrobial effect, safety, and price.

This ingredient can be found in Colgate toothpaste and mouthwash.


Pharmaceutical products can also benefit from sodium benzoate’s antimicrobial properties, such as tablets, capsules, and cough syrups.

It can also be used to treat urea cycle disorders in children by reducing ammonia levels.( 7)

Sodium benzoate can be used to prevent mold or yeast growth and extend the shelf life of foods, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s also used as an anti-fungal agent in products like mouthwash, toothpaste and other personal care items.

While sodium benzoate is safe for most people when consumed in moderation, there are some concerns about its safety for children and pregnant women. The FDA recommends that these groups avoid sodium benzoate because it may cause adverse effects at high doses.


In food, sodium benzoate can be used as an antimicrobial agent and flavoring agent with a maximum dosage of 0.1%( 8). When used as a preservative in feed, sodium benzoate is GRAS.


The European Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 categorizes sodium benzoate (E211) as an authorized food additive( 9).

Safety re-evaluation in 2016

Based on the studies of genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity and other researches, EFSA concluded in 2016 that sodium benzoate does not pose a health concern and derived an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 5 mg/kg bw/day (expressed as benzoic acid).

UK Food Standards Agency

This item is categorized as “Others”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have approved it as an ingredient under code number 211( 10).


Classification: food additives, antibacterial preservatives.( 11)

The 1996 ADI for benzoic acid was 5 mg/kg body weight.( 12)

What are the side effects of sodium benzoate?

Sodium benzoate has been associated with an increased risk for kidney cancer. However, these findings are limited and need to be confirmed by further studies.

Sodium Benzoate Side Effects

There are a variety of possible side effects from sodium benzoate exposure. Some people may experience no symptoms at all while others may suffer serious harm or even death if they consume large amounts of this preservative.

Kidney Cancer

According to the National Toxicology Program (NTP), sodium benzoate can cause cancer when it is combined with vitamin C in acidic solutions like fruit juices or soft drinks. When ingested together, these two chemicals form benzene which is known to cause kidney cancers in rats and mice exposed to it over time — though no human studies have been conducted yet on this subject.

Other Side Effects

  • The following are some other potential side effects of sodium benzoate exposure:
  • Skin irritation
  • Allergic reactions, such as contact dermatitis
  • Respiratory tract inflammation, including asthma and bronchitis
  • Hematological disorders, such as leukopenia (decreased white blood cells), neutropenia (decreased neutrophils), and agranulocytosis (decreased granulocytes)
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting and diarrhea

Is sodium benzoate cause cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), sodium benzoate has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals and there is some evidence that it may cause cancer in humans as well. The NCI states that there are limited studies on the effects of sodium benzoate in humans but it does appear to cause DNA damage when administered orally in rats.

Additionally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified sodium benzoate as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on limited evidence from laboratory studies in rats and mice that showed DNA damage when administered orally at high doses over long periods of time (more than 18 months).

Where to buy sodium benzoate?

You can purchase sodium benzoate at many online retailers, including Amazon.com and Walmart.com.

Sodium benzoate is also available in larger quantities from food-grade suppliers like Grade Chemical Products.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Sodium Benzoate natural?

Sodium Benzoate is a synthetic compound. It’s used as a preservative in food and drinks.

Is Sodium Benzoate halal?

Sodium benzoate is a preservative commonly used in sodas and other foods. It is considered halal by some authorities and haram by others.

Is Sodium Benzoate kosher?

No, sodium benzoate is not kosher. Sodium benzoate is a preservative used in many foods and drinks. It is made by combining sodium hydroxide and benzoic acid.

Is Sodium Benzoate gluten free?

Sodium benzoate is not made of gluten, so it should not contain any gluten molecules or any other protein molecules that might trigger a reaction in someone with celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

Is Sodium Benzoate vegan?

Yes, Sodium Benzoate is vegan, as it is made from benzoic acid, which is a naturally occurring substance found in plants and animals.

Is Sodium Benzoate an Acid or Base?

Sodium benzoate is an acid, and it has a pH of about 6.2

How much Sodium Benzoate to Use?

In general, sodium benzoate is added to foods at a concentration of 0.1% or less (10 parts per million). However, there are no regulations that specify how much sodium benzoate should be used in certain foods.

Is sodium benzoate safe for pregnant?

The FDA has determined that sodium benzoate is safe for consumption by people who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding then it may be best to avoid sodium benzoate altogether until after your baby has been born.( 13)

Potassium Benzoate Vs Sodium Benzoate

Potassium Benzoate and Sodium Benzoate are both preservatives that are used in foods and beverages. They work by inhibiting the growth of mold, yeasts, and some bacteria.

Sodium benzoate is more acidic than potassium benzoate, with a pH level of 1.3 compared to a pH of 6.8 for potassium benzoate. This means that sodium benzoate is more effective at preventing spoilage, but it also can have an adverse effect on people with certain health conditions.

Potassium benzoate is generally considered to be a safer alternative to sodium benzoate because it is less acidic and has fewer side effects when consumed in small amounts by healthy people

What is the difference between Sodium Benzoate and MSG?

Sodium benzoate is not the same as MSG. Sodium benzoate is an organic compound that is used to preserve foods and make them last longer. It’s also used as a preservative in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and drinking water. When sodium benzoate is mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it becomes benzoic acid, which is used in many medicines as an antiseptic and preservative.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is also known as E621 or 621. It’s a flavor enhancer that’s added to food products to enhance the taste of salty, sour, sweet, and bitter flavors.

Sodium Benzoate Vs Benzoic Acid

Sodium benzoate and benzoic acid are two related compounds that can be used as preservatives in food and beverages. Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid, while benzoic acid itself is a naturally occurring organic compound.

The two compounds have similar chemical structures, but they differ in one respect: sodium benzoate is water soluble, whereas benzoic acid is not. This means that sodium benzoate can be used as a preservative in foods that require a high water content, such as fruit juices and soda drinks. It also means that sodium benzoate can be used to extend shelf life for products like salad dressings and other sauces.

Difference between potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate are both organic acids used as preservatives in foods. They are added to prevent the growth of bacteria in products that have a high water activity (the amount of water available for microorganisms to live on).

The difference between sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate is that benzoic acid has two oxygen groups on it, while sorbic acid only has one. The two oxygen groups react with chemicals in your body to form benzene, which can be harmful if consumed regularly at high doses.

Sodium benzoate is more likely to cause issues than potassium sorbate because its reaction with benzene is faster and more complete.


In summary, sodium benzoate is an additive used commonly in the United States and most of the world. It’s found naturally in some foods and is produced naturally in small amounts by bacteria. For these reasons, sodium benzoate is generally considered safe for human consumption at standard levels under normal conditions.

It’s possible that some people may have adverse reactions to the additive, but such cases are rare when it’s used properly. Also, keep in mind that many persons have adverse reactions to other substances that are well-known to be safe.

In other words, if you see reactions or symptoms from sodium benzoate, it may be a good idea to get a consultation with a doctor just to make sure you’re not experiencing an unrelated reaction or condition to another problematic substance or condition.

If you have any questions about this additive, feel free to let us know in the below comments.

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng is the author of gradechemical.com, she is the co-founder of the grade chemical network. She has been in grade chemical company since 2017, with a working knowledge of food chemical .

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