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Potassium sorbate (E 202): application and recommendations

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 351 views

Potassium sorbate has the European approval number E 202. It is a derivative of sorbic acid and is often used as a preservative – for food, among other things. Read all about the properties, uses and dangers of potassium sorbate here.

What is Potassium Sorbate?

Potassium sorbate is a salt of sorbic acid – like sodium sorbate (E 201) and calcium sorbate (E 203). Although it also occurs naturally, for example in rowan berries, it is usually produced synthetically. This happens via a multi-stage chemical process, usually no genetically modified organisms are used for this.

E 202 is used as a preservative because it is fairly tasteless and odorless. This has the advantage of not affecting the properties of the added product.

Potassium sorbate prevents yeast and mold from forming and works best in acidic foods.

Compared to sorbic acid, E 202 has the advantage that it is more easily soluble, both in water and in fat . Potassium sorbate is vegan.

What is Potassium Sorbate used for?

Potassium sorbate is only approved for certain food and cosmetic products – and only in a specified amount that varies from product to product. The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) has reduced the maximum intake to three milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

It is mainly used as a preservative in three areas:

  • Cosmetics : E 202 is primarily intended to extend the shelf life of skin and hair care products and prevent mold growth.
  • Winemaking : Potassium sorbate is used here to preserve the flavor of the wine. Because the preservative stops the fermentation process. Soft drinks, juices and sodas also often contain E 202.
  • Food Preservation : Potassium sorbate is said to prevent premature spoilage, especially in foods that are stored at room temperature or are pre-cooked.

Potassium sorbate is found in the following foods:

  • dates, olives
  • dried raw ham, dried raw sausage
  • (melted) cheese
  • Margarine
  • Meat, fish, seafood substitutes
  • Syrup
  • Baked goods (e.g. packaged sliced ​​bread)
  • Mayonnaise, tartar sauce, soy sauce
  • jam
  • yoghurt, ice cream

E 202 must not be added to foodstuffs to which certain additives are not permitted by law. For example, potassium sorbate is not permitted for organic food.

Is Potassium Sorbate Harmful?

Preservatives are necessary to increase the shelf life of certain foods and to prevent people from ingesting harmful mold or fungus spores through spoiled products.

However, two laboratory studies suggest that potassium sorbate may be harmful and unhealthy for the body. The reason: It may affect the white blood cells and may even trigger cancer. So far, however, there is no solid scientific evidence for this.

At present, only isolated cases of allergic reactions or irritation of the mucous membranes are known, otherwise potassium sorbate is considered harmless, as it is completely broken down by the body via the fatty acid metabolism.

If you want to avoid potassium sorbate at all costs, it is better to use fresh produce and carefully read the list of ingredients for packaged foods.


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