What is Benzoic Acid, and where is it used?
Benzoic acid, E120 is a white crystalline solid that occurs naturally in various fruits, such as cranberries, plums, and prunes . It is synthesised for commercial use, primarily as a preservative due to its antimicrobial properties, which help inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and moulds in food and beverages [1-2]. The main purpose of using benzoic acid as a food preservative is to prevent spoilage and maintain product quality. It is commonly found in a wide range of food and beverage products, including carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, fruit juices, jams, pickles, sauces, salad dressings, and processed foods.
Purported Health Implications There do not appear to be purported health benefits directly from benzoic acid as a preservative [1-2]. However, due to its properties of microbial control and nutrition preservation, it helps to maintain the quality and safety of products, thus preventing foodborne illnesses.
A recent study using a rat colon carcinogenesis model explored the potential chemopreventive role of a benzoic acid derivative . The result suggested possible inhibition of colon tumour development, and thus benzoic acid may play an indirect role in cancer chemoprevention. However, evidence of this is extremely limited, and the lack of statistical significance and relevance of this and many other preservatives benefitting the human diet has not demanded for more research. Most individuals can consume benzoic acid within the recommended limits without experiencing any adverse effects. However, some individuals may be hypersensitive or intolerant to benzoic acid, leading to allergic reactions or digestive disturbances [4-5]. It is essential to be aware of personal sensitivities and consult a healthcare professional if any adverse effects are experienced.
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): Regulatory bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have established an ADI for benzoic acid [6-7]. The ADI represents the maximum amount of a substance that can be consumed daily without adverse health effects. The ADI for benzoic acid is set at 0-5 mg/kg body weight.
International regulations: The use of benzoic acid as a food preservative is regulated by various international bodies, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the FAO [7-8]. These organisations establish guidelines and maximum permitted levels to ensure the safety of consumers.
Labelling: In many countries, food products containing benzoic acid must be labelled with the specific additive name (E210) to inform consumers of its presence.
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Nakayama Y, Inoue Y, Minagawa N, Onitsuka K, Nagata J, Shibao K, Hirata K, Sako T, Nagata N, Yamaguchi K. Chemopreventive effect of 4-[3, 5-Bis (trimethylsilyl) benzamido] benzoic acid (TAC-101) on MNU-induced colon carcinogenesis in a rat model. Anticancer research. 2009 Jun 1;29(6):2059-65.
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Scheman A, Cha C, Jacob SE, Nedorost S. Food avoidance diets for systemic, lip, and oral contact allergy: an American Contact Alternatives Group article. Dermatitis. 2012 Dec 1;23(6):248-57.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. International Organization. 1947 Jun;1(02):350.
World Health Organization, Safety IP on C. Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate [Internet]. iris.who.int. World Health Organization; 2000 [cited 2023 Oct 10]. Available from: https://iris.who.int/handle/10665/42310?locale=ar
1.CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 [Internet]. www.accessdata.fda.gov. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1021&SearchTerm=benzoic%20acid
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.