174 Silver

Posted 25 Oct 2023
174 Silver

What is Silver, and where is it used? Silver, a precious metal known for its antimicrobial properties, is also utilised as a food preservative under the code E174 [1-2]. Silver (E174) is commonly used in the food industry to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, thereby extending the shelf life and ensuring the safety of various food products. It is worth noting that silver has been used for centuries for its medicinal and preservative properties, and its application in the food industry is based on its long-standing history of effectiveness [3].

Silver is primarily used in the form of silver nanoparticles or silver ions [4-5]. Common applications of silver in the food industry stretch mostly in the production and packaging of food products as opposed to contributing directly to the ingredients.

  • Food Packaging [4]: Silver nanoparticles are incorporated into food packaging materials, such as films and coatings, to inhibit the growth of microorganisms and prevent food spoilage. This helps maintain the freshness and quality of packaged foods, especially perishable items.

  • Beverages [4]: Silver ions or nanoparticles are utilised in the production (not composition) of certain beverages, including bottled water and carbonated drinks, to extend their shelf life and ensure microbial safety. These silver-based preservatives help inhibit the growth of bacteria and maintain the microbiological quality of the beverages.

  • Dairy Products [6-8]: Silver may be used in certain dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, to prevent the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms. By incorporating silver as a preservative, the shelf life of dairy products can be extended, reducing the risk of product deterioration and foodborne illnesses.

While silver can be effective in certain food products and packaging materials, its use may be limited to specific applications due to cost considerations [9]. The use of silver as a preservative is more common in products that require extended shelf life or have high susceptibility to microbial contamination.

Purported Health Implications

The health benefits of consuming silver (E174) as a food preservative are primarily related to its antimicrobial properties [1-2]. When used in appropriate amounts, silver can help inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in food products. By preventing the proliferation of these microorganisms, silver helps maintain the quality and safety of the food, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Recommendations for Safe Consumption

  • Regulatory Approval: Silver (E174) has undergone safety evaluations and risk assessments by regulatory authorities, including Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [3, 10-11]. It is approved for use as a food preservative within specified limits to ensure consumer safety.

  • Permitted Levels: Specific guidelines and maximum permitted levels for silver usage in food products are established by regulatory agencies to prevent excessive exposure and ensure safe consumption [3, 10-11]. Food manufacturers must adhere to these limits to ensure that the levels of silver in their products are within acceptable ranges.

  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, allergic reactions to silver can occur in certain individuals [12]. If you have known allergies or sensitivities to silver, it is advisable to read product labels carefully and consult with healthcare professionals if necessary.

  • Dietary Exposure: The overall dietary exposure to silver from food preservatives is considered to be within safe limits. Silver intake primarily comes from natural sources such as drinking water and some foods, in addition to the contribution from food additives.

  • Product Labelling: Food manufacturers are required to label products containing silver (E174) as an ingredient to ensure transparency and provide information to consumers.

  • Nanoparticle Safety: In the case of silver nanoparticles, there is ongoing research regarding their potential effects on the environment such as sustainability and human health such as a potential role in oxidative stress [2]. Regulatory authorities closely monitor the use of silver nanoparticles in food applications and set specific requirements to ensure their safety [3, 10-11].


  1. Gultekin F, Oner ME, Savas HB, Dogan B. Food additives and microbiota. Northern clinics of Istanbul. 2020 Apr 1;7(2).

  2. Luksiene Z. Nanoparticles and their potential application as antimicrobials in the food industry. InFood preservation 2017 Jan 1 (pp. 567-601). Academic press.

  3. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific opinion on the re‐evaluation of silver (E 174) as food additive. EFSA Journal. 2016 Jan;14(1):4364.

  4. Medina-Reyes EI, Rodríguez-Ibarra C, Déciga-Alcaraz A, Díaz-Urbina D, Chirino YI, Pedraza-Chaverri J. Food additives containing nanoparticles induce gastrotoxicity, hepatotoxicity and alterations in animal behavior: The unknown role of oxidative stress. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2020 Dec 1;146:111814.

  5. Waegeneers N, De Vos S, Verleysen E, Ruttens A, Mast J. Estimation of the uncertainties related to the measurement of the size and quantities of individual silver nanoparticles in confectionery. Materials. 2019 Aug 22;12(17):2677.

  6. Angelopoulou P, Giaouris E, Gardikis K. Applications and prospects of nanotechnology in food and cosmetics preservation. Nanomaterials. 2022 Apr 3;12(7):1196.

  7. Gultekin F, Oner ME, Savas HB, Dogan B. Food additives and microbiota. Northern clinics of Istanbul. 2020 Apr 1;7(2).

  8. Silva MM, Reboredo FH, Lidon FC. Food colour additives: A synoptical overview on their chemical properties, applications in food products, and health side effects. Foods. 2022 Jan 28;11(3):379.

  9. Lamri M, Bhattacharya T, Boukid F, Chentir I, Dib AL, Das D, Djenane D, Gagaoua M. Nanotechnology as a processing and packaging tool to improve meat quality and safety. Foods. 2021 Oct 29;10(11):2633.

  10. Food additives -alphabetical list Food additives -alphabetical list [Internet]. 2019. Available from: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/additiveoverview/Documents/Food%20additives%20-%20alphabetical%20May%202019.pdf

  11. FDA. Food Additive Status List. FDA [Internet]. 2020 Aug 4; Available from: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/food-additive-status-list#ftnS

  12. Issa M, Rivière G, Houdeau E, Adel-Patient K. Perinatal exposure to foodborne inorganic nanoparticles: A role in the susceptibility to food allergy?. Frontiers in Allergy. 2022 Dec 5;3:147.


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.