What is Sodium Propionate (E281)? Uses, Safety, Side Effects

What is Sodium Propionate (E281)? Uses, Safety, Side Effects

What is sodium propionate

Table of Contents

Sodium propionate, or E281 as it is also known, is a food additive with a variety of uses. This chemical compound can be found in baked goods, bread products, soft drinks, and some confectioneries. While propionic acid can be produced naturally in dairy products, processed meats, and certain cheeses, it has a number of health risks associated with it. Therefore it has been replaced by synthetic alternatives where possible

What is sodium propionate in food?


The chemical formula for sodium propionate is CHNaCO2Na and it has a molecular weight of 115 g/mol. Sodium propionate is a preservative used in bread and baked goods. It is also used to preserve cheese, ham, sausage and other processed meats.

Sodium propionate is an ingredient in many common foods, including breads, cakes, cookies, crackers and other baked goods. It can also be found in some cheeses and sausages as well as in smoked fish.

Pure sodium propionate is a white crystalline powder with a slightly salty taste. It’s made by reacting propionic acid with sodium carbonate (soda ash), which results in the creation of sodium salt crystals that look like table salt crystals when dried and ground into powder form.

In addition to being used as a food additive, sodium propionate has been used for centuries as an antibiotic to treat infections caused by bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella

What is sodium propionate used for?


Sodium propionate is the sodium salt of propionic acid, an organic compound with a carboxylic acid group. It is used as a preservative in food and beverages.

In foods, sodium propionate inhibits mold and yeast growth by preventing them from producing cell walls. In addition to its use as an additive in a variety of food products, it has been used as a food ingredient since 1950.

Sodium propionate can be found in bread, cakes, and other baked goods; frozen desserts; processed meats; oral hygiene products such as toothpaste; dairy products such as cheeses; condiments such as mustards, relishes, and ketchup; jams and jellies; snack foods such as potato chips; beer; wine coolers; coffee creamers; carbonated soft drinks (CSDs); instant teas and coffees; snack bars; fruit juices and fruit drinks; tomato sauces and soups; pickled vegetables like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), olives (pickled fruits) and pickles (pickled cucumbers).

How is sodium propionate made?


Sodium propionate is a food preservative used in many baked goods, processed cheeses, and other foods. It is made by the fermentation of carbohydrates by lactic acid bacteria under anaerobic conditions. Sodium propionate inhibits the growth of molds and yeasts in foods. It also slows down the development of rancidity in fats.

The following steps describe how sodium propionate is made:

Step 1: The first step involves mixing lactose (sugar) with water to produce a sugary solution known as “milk.” This mixture is then heated to create a syrup that can be easily stored and transported.

Step 2: Next, yeast is added to the syrup. The yeast begins its process of converting sugar into alcohol. Once converted, this alcohol becomes ethyl alcohol or ethanol which is then distilled from the mixture.

Step 3: Finally, the ethanol is mixed with acetic acid which creates acetic acid esters of glycerol (E442). These esters are then neutralized with sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which produces sodium propionate as well as other types of sodium salts such as sodium lactate and sodium pyrophosphate (E450).



Other Names
  • Sodium propanoate
  • Napropion
  • Sodium  ethanecarboxylate
  • Propanoic acid sodium salt
CAS Number 137-40-6
Chemical formula C3H5NaO2, CH3CH2COONa
Molar Mass 96.060 g/mol



Powder or granular form with a slight odor of propionic acid. When moistened, it becomes liquescent.

Sodium propionate structure





Its water solubility will determine its use and function as a mold inhibitor.

In water


Soluble in water and has a solubility of 100 g/100 mL at 15°C, which is better than calcium propionate.

Sodium propionate is a base that dissociates propionate ions after reacting with water. The propionate ion in H2O then combines with hydrogen ion to generate propanoic acid.

In Organic solvent


It is soluble in ethanol with a solubility of 4.4 g/100 mL.

PH Range


A preservative’s antimicrobial activity is also dependent on its pH value.

Inhibiting mold growth with propionates requires a pH range of 2.5 to 5.5.

Propionates produce propionic acid when they dissociate and combine with water. By lowering the intracellular pH of microbes, propionic acid inhibits mold growth. It works like this.

Sodium propionate VS Potassium propionate


Sodium propionate and potassium propionate are two types of preservatives that are used in the food industry. They are both used to preserve foods and prevent them from spoiling. They do this by controlling the growth of microorganisms that cause food to spoil.

Sodium propionate is the salt form of propionic acid, which is a naturally occurring organic compound found in milk and cheese. Potassium propionate comes from potassium salts and propionic acid.

Sodium Propionate vs Potassium Propionate

The main difference between these two preservatives is their chemical structure and how they affect your health. Sodium propionate has a single positive charge on its molecule, while potassium propionate has two positive charges on its molecule. This means that sodium propionate is more soluble in water than potassium propionate and it also dissolves faster when exposed to air.

The solubility of sodium propionate makes it more effective than potassium propionate as a preservative because it can be dissolved more easily into foods that contain water than food containing no water (such as oils). This means that foods containing only oil will not be preserved by sodium propionate alone; however, when combined with other preservatives such as

What’s the application of sodium propionate?


Sodium Propionate is a chemical that is made from sodium carbonate and propionic acid. It is often used in combination with other preservatives because it does not prevent the growth of mold as effectively as other chemicals like sorbic acid or calcium propionate. It can also be used as an additive in non-food products like cosmetics, soaps, detergents, and pharmaceuticals.

Sodium propionate is primarily used as a preservative in baked goods to extend the shelf life of foods such as bread, cookies, snack bars, and crackers. It is also used as an inhibitor of mold growth in various foods such as cheese, meats, baked goods, and salad dressings. Sodium propionate has the ability to inhibit mold growth at low concentrations.

Bread is one of the most common uses of sodium propionate, which is recommended for use in standard bakery recipes at a concentration of 0.2-0.5% of flour weight.

  • Sodium Propanoate is also used to preserve many other food products such as:
  • Cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and other dairy products
  • Jams and jellies
  • Canned meats (pork and beef)
  • Nonalcoholic beverages such as carbonated drinks, fruit juices, vegetable juices, milkshakes and beer
  • Confections and frostings

What are the uses of sodium propionate in bread?


Sodium Propionate is a food preservative and additive. It is used as an antimicrobial agent in bread to inhibit mold and yeast growth.

Sodium Propionate is a white, crystalline solid that has a salty taste and odor. It is used as an acidulant and preservative in foods, including bread, cakes, cookies, and puddings. In bread, it inhibits mold growth on the surface of the loaf while allowing yeast activity to continue inside. This prevents spoilage while maintaining quality characteristics like freshness, softness, and flavor.

Is sodium propionate safe?


It has been approved as a safe ingredient by the FDA, EFSA, and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert on Food Additives (JECFA).



When used as an antimicrobial agent and a flavoring agent in food, sodium propionate is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).



According to Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012, sodium propionate (E281) is an authorized food additive categorized under “Additives other than colours and sweeteners”.

Safety re-evaluation in 2014, and 2016


The safety of sodium propionate has been re-evaluated in 2014 () and there are no safety concerns when it is used in meat preparation, processed meat, and fish at a maximum level of 5,000 mg/kg.

UK Food Standards Agency


The item is categorized as “Others”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand


In Australia and New Zealand, it has code number 281.



Classification: food additives, preservatives.

ADI “not limited” set in 1973.

Sodium propionate vs Calcium propionate


Sodium propionate and calcium propionate are two types of food preservatives that are commonly used in the food industry. Both are used to prevent the growth of mold and other fungi on foods such as cheese and bread. They also help retain moisture, which can make certain foods more flavorful.

Sodium Propionate

Sodium propionate is a salt of propionic acid, which is a naturally occurring fatty acid that can be found in dairy products. Sodium propionate is used to preserve a wide variety of foods, including meats, cheeses, baked goods and processed fruits and vegetables. It is also used to inhibit mold growth in certain kinds of cheese.

Calcium Propionate

Calcium propionate is formed when calcium hydroxide reacts with propionic acid in an alkaline solution. It is often added to foods that have been preserved with sodium nitrate or nitrite because it will help prevent the formation of botulism spores if these substances are present in the food product. Calcium propionate also inhibits mold growth on cheese products by lowering their pH levels so that they become inhospitable to most fungi species.

What are the side effects of sodium propionate?


Sodium propionate can cause side effects if you consume too much of it. It’s important to note that side effects are rare, because sodium propionate is considered safe when consumed at levels that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Allergic reactions

Sodium propionate can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to it or have certain conditions or diseases. For example, people with asthma may experience chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties if they consume too much sodium propionate. In addition, people with eczema may experience hives — itchy red bumps on the skin — after eating foods containing this preservative. And those who are prone to migraines might experience headaches after eating foods containing sodium propionate.

Other side effects

Other side effects associated with consuming too much sodium propionate include:

Nausea and vomiting


Where to buy sodium propionate?


You can find sodium propionate in grocery stores or online if you don’t have easy access to it. If you do decide to buy it online, make sure that the seller has a good reputation for selling food-grade ingredients for cooking and baking purposes only.

Sodium Propionate Suppliers

You can find suppliers of sodium propionate by doing an internet search for “sodium propionate suppliers” or similar terms. Here are some examples:

Amazon.com – Amazon has several sellers who offer sodium propionate in bulk quantities by the pound or kilogram (2.2 pounds). The prices vary depending on the quantity that you need and which seller you choose, but many people report good experiences with this supplier.

Sigma-Aldrich – This chemical manufacturer sells small amounts of sodium propionate at an affordable price per gram (0.035 ounces), but note that this is not food grade quality; it is intended for laboratory use only! This chemical supplier also sells larger quantities of sodium propionate in bulk bags at a discount over buying smaller amounts from other suppliers listed here as well as from other websites such as eBay.

Grade Chemical – Grade Chemical is one reliable food additives supplier in China. which can supply you much more competitive price for Sodium Propionate than the local market price. they can deliver to you by courier in 7-10 days.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is sodium propionate natural?


Sodium Propionate is a natural preservative. Sodium propionate is also called sodium propanoate or sodium propionic acid. It is a salt of propionic acid and can be found naturally in some cheese, yogurt, and butter.

Propionic acid is used as a food additive and preservative in baked goods and other foods that require a longer shelf life. Propionic acid has no color or odor when used as an additive, but it does have a slightly bitter taste.

Is sodium propionate halal?


Sodium Propionate is a preservative used in the production of cheese. It is derived from propionic acid, which comes from the fermentation of carbohydrates by bacteria. Propionic acid is a fatty acid that naturally occurs in dairy products, so sodium propionate is considered halal.

Is sodium propionate a salt?


Sodium Propionate is a salt. It is used as a preservative in foods that contain high levels of moisture, such as baked goods and dairy products.

Is sodium propionate a strong base?


Sodium propionate is not a strong base. It is a weak acid with a pKa of 3.2, meaning that it has a relatively low pH when dissolved in water at concentrations greater than 1%.

Is sodium propionate toxic?


Sodium propionate is not considered toxic. It’s considered safe for human consumption at levels up to 5 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg/day), according to the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that sodium propionate is not likely to be toxic or carcinogenic at levels up to 100 ppm in drinking water.

Is sodium propionate vegan?


Sodium Propionate is a vegan ingredient. Sodium Propionate is a preservative that is used in many types of foods, including bread, crackers, and pastries. It is considered safe for consumption and does not cause any harm to animals or humans.



To conclude, Sodium Propionate is a chemical that has been approved as a food additive. This ensures its safety even if it is used in large quantities. That said, since this is an additive, you want to watch your intake and avoid eating too many of these products that contain the ingredient. At the very least, you are assured that the chemical will not harm you when consumed in the right amounts

If you have any questions about Sodium Propionate, 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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