What is Calcium sorbate (203), and where is it used?
Calcium sorbate (E203) is a fine white crystalline powder used as a preservative in the food and beverage industry as it inhibits the growth of yeast, moulds and bacteria in food, thereby maintaining the quality and shelf-life of various products . This additive is a calcium salt of sorbic acid, a naturally occurring organic compound found in fruits and vegetables. Though calcium sorbate can be derived from natural sources, for the most part is now manufactured synthetically. Common food applications of calcium sorbate include dried meat, baked goods, carbonated beverages, cheese and sauces [1,2].
Purported Health Implications
While calcium sorbate itself may not offer direct health benefits, as a preservative, its anti-microbial properties and nutritional preservation contribute to the overall quality and safety of products [1,2]. Thereby extending the shelf life of these foods, reducing food waste, reducing the risk of food-borne illnesses, and ensuring that consumers have access to safe and fresh products.
Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to preservatives, including calcium sorbate. Allergic reactions may manifest as skin rashes, hives or itching . If you suspect or have a known sensitivity to potassium sorbate, be mindful of its presence in food products and consult with a healthcare professional.
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have not established specific Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) values for E203 Calcium Sorbate.
Moderation and Balanced Diet: As with any food additive, moderation is key. While calcium sorbate is typically safe for consumption within recommended limits, it's important to maintain a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods. Reducing reliance on heavily processed foods can help minimise exposure to food additives, including calcium sorbate.
Differential Regulations: Calcium sorbate is no longer permitted as a food additive in the European Union due to insufficient data to conclude its safety . Whereas, it is approved as a food preservative in New Zealand, Australia and the US [4,5]. The FDA regards calcium sorbate as ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ when used in accordance with good manufacturing practices.
Anyasi TA, Jideani AI, Edokpayi JN, Anokwuru CP. Application of organic acids in food preservation. Organic Acids, Characteristics, Properties and Synthesis; Vargas, C., Ed. 2017:1-47.
Thomas L, J. Delves-Broughton. PRESERVATIVES | Permitted Preservatives – Sorbic Acid. Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology (2nd Ed). 2014 Jan 1;102-107.
Witkowski M, Grajeta H, Krzysztof Gomułka. Hypersensitivity Reactions to Food Additives—Preservatives, Antioxidants, Flavor Enhancers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022 Sep 13;19(18):11493–3.
Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/98 of 22 January 2018 amending Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and the Annex to Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as regards calcium sorbate (E 203). 2018, Jan 22.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). Food additives - numerical list. 2019.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Additive Status List. 2023.
We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.