Sodium Benzoate Dangers

There’s a great deal of buzz on the internet about sodium benzoate dangers. The question is how much of what you read is fact and how much is fiction. The purpose of this post is to give you the facts.

What is sodium benzoate?

Sodium benzoate is a salt derived from benzoic acid and is used as a preservative in foods and cosmetics. Though benzoic acid is a more effective preservative, it isn’t very soluble in cold water compared to sodium benzoate which dissolves easily in water.

How is sodium benzoate made?

When you combine an acid and a base, the result is a salt. When you mix sodium hydroxide with hydrochloric acid, you get sodium chloride, table salt. When you mix sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid you get sodium benzoate.

Do foods naturally contain sodium benzoate

Sodium benzoate is not found in foods unless it is added as a preservative. However, quite a number of foods contain benzoic acid. High concentrations of benzoic acid are found in some berries. Apples, plums, cinnamon, cloves and other foods including milk contain benzoic acid. It is found in many plants, animals, and milk. You will find a number of sites on the internet stating that sodium benzoate is found in foods. That information probably came from Concise International Chemical Assessment Document 26 (2005). I encourage you to read it for yourself. I’ve included it in its entirety here, because it includes a great deal of related information. The document states that benzoic acid is naturally contained in many foods. The confusion comes because the document often uses benzoic acid and sodium benzoate synonymously e.g. benzoic acid/sodium benzoate. However, it clearly states that it is benzoic acid that is found naturally in foods, but sodium benzoate a food additive.

How does the body process sodium benzoate?

Sodium benzoate is transported to the liver where it is filtered out and expelled in urine.

Sodium benzoate dangers

Sodium benzoate is added to many foods with a pH 4.5 or lower such as pickles, catsup, and soft drinks. It is also added to mouthwashes, toothpaste, creams, lotions and other cosmetic products where a small percentage may be absorbed through the skin.

Though regulations only allow a small percentage of sodium benzoate to be added to products (.1% by weight). The concentration may vary depending on what country you live in. However, the effects of repeated doses of sodium benzoate over time are unknown. Another consideration is how much sodium benzoate an individual actually consumes during a day. In the U.S. it appears most of our sodium benzoate is consumed in soft drinks whereas, in China and Japan, the consumption is primarily from Soya sauce. There have been tests done on rats and mice using varying concentrations of sodium benzoate to their diets, the toxicity and carcinogenicity appear to be low. Short-term tests using higher doses were also performed on human volunteers with similar results.

Professor Peter Piper a molecular biology expert at Sheffield University found that sodium benzoate damaged the mitochondrial DNA of yeast cells. (Mitochondria are free floating elements in each cell with multiple functions. They are associated with cell metabolism and aging). He concluded that it may do the same to human DNA. (With a name like that, I bet he got teased a lot as a kid.) I have not read his data so don’t know what concentrations of sodium benzoate he was using that caused damage to yeast cell mitochondrial DNA. It is known that high concentrations of sodium benzoate are toxic.

Another study that I consider questionable has associated sodium benzoate with ADD. The problem with this study was that sodium was used in conjunction with food dyes. It is unknown whether it was the sodium benzoate, the dyes or the combination that caused the hyperactivity of the children studied. Other studies have concluded that food dyes by themselves are associated with ADD.

One known cancer danger exists related to sodium benzoate. If you combine ascorbic acid (vitamin C) with sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate (another preservative), you get benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Most of the benzene exposure comes from the environment including cigarette smoke, car exhaust, industrial waste and service stations. Some benzene exposure can also come from contaminated food and water. Some soft drinks have been removed from the market when they were found to contain benzene. A minimal amount of benzene exposure comes from food (Whew, that’s good news.)


The real sodium benzoate dangers come from the unknown. What are the long term effects? That’s a giant question that no one can presently answer. How much is mitochondrial DNA damage caused by sodium benzoate? That is another unknown.

Does sodium benzoate have an effect on brain function as the ADD studies suggest? This is another unknown. With these things in mind, here is my recommendation to our goddesses who we love.

  • It’s a good idea to leave soda pop alone. There are many wonderful beverages to enjoy that do not contain sodium benzoate.
  • Don’t stress about foods that contain sodium benzoate unless you are eating them in large quantities.
  • For our goddesses who cook with or use a lot of soy sauce, buy the sodium benzoate free variety.
  • Avoid cosmetics, creams, and lotions that contain sodium benzoate if you leave them on your skin.
  • If you create products use other preservatives or no preservatives at all for small batches if for personal use.

As new information and studies on the use and effects of this preservative are released, you will be the first to know.

Now go have fun and relax.

Update: May 2017

Study on the potential effects of sodium benzoate on blood sugar levels

Sodium benzoate is metabolized in the liver to produce Hippurate which is then expelled by the kidneys. In a study done to determine if sodium benzoate at generally regarded as safe (GRAS) levels had a negative effect on blood sugar levels.

It was determined that for the short term, there was no negative effect. However, after consuming sodium benzoate, in addition to the expected rise is Hippurate and sodium benzoate, blood levels of anthranilic acid, a tryptophan metabolite, had a “robust rise” while acetyl glycine dropped.

Keep in mind this study was very small (only 14 overweight individuals) and involved a one-time increase in sodium benzoate. What the long-term effects with consistent introduction of sodium benzoate to the human body remain unknown.

An investigation by researchers into the safety of sodium benzoate

After careful investigation of all data available to them, the researchers are quoted here:

“Conclusions: Studies on natural ingredients in foods to find compounds with similar effects as benzoate with less adverse effects is necessary.”

New study may give us answers

A new Australia/New Zealand study completely unrelated to the dangers of sodium benzoate will nevertheless give us important clues as to its potential toxicity, at least for the short term.

The study is to determine whether administering sodium benzoate over a 12-week period will help folks with various psychiatric disorders such as depression and/or anxiety.

If the study proves successful, it will be interesting to follow the effects of high doses of sodium benzoate over time.

The study subjects will be given dosages of 1 gram per day. The theory that sodium benzoate is safe is based on data examined by these researchers. The study will include 180 participants, but only half of them will receive the sodium benzoate, the balance will receive a placebo (fake pill).

If this information sounds confusing and conflicted, you’re not alone in feeling this way. We will have to wait and stay on top of the science to know what the real effects of this controversial preservative. I’m on it so you can be kept up to date.

Recommended Reading:

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About ItReal Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About ItPandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, 8 fl. oz.Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

Related articles:

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209 thoughts on “Sodium Benzoate Dangers

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  2. Products like AVEDA Shampoo also contains Potassium Sorbate , Sodium Benzoate. Is it suggestable to use these products?

    1. Hi Anu,
      I wouldn’t be worried about using these products. My biggest concern is in the over consumption of Sodium Benzoate found in food and beverages.

  3. Hi, I recently bought a face cream which contains sodium benzoate, benzoic acid, orange flower oil. It concerns me because of the vitamin C in the orange flower oil in combination with the Benzoate.Should I be concerned and should I stop using this face cream?


    1. There is probably not a problem due to the low concentrations of both the sodium benzoate and orange flower oil, however to be sure, I would get in touch with the manufacturer of the cream and address your concern.

  4. It is always just so exciting to see decent information like this considering the less relevant material that’s out there. I mean, you can definitely tell that much time and patience with into this. Do you work with content writers or do you compose your own content?

    1. Studies are being conducted all the time. The only thing those of us not working in a lab is to keep up to date.

    1. Hi there guest,
      It probably wouldn’t hurt your plants, but whether it would be good for them is not for me to say. I’m assuming you’re thinking of spraying a diluted solution to prevent mildew. Who knows, maybe you’re on to something. Give it a try and report back.
      We look forward to hearing from you.

  5. I also purchased a gooseberry juice bottle and it tastes different (bitter) from the last one so I checked for the lable and I found sodium benzoate used as preservative . I searched on Internet about it and I found that it can be dangerous while combined with vit c. I consumed it about 60-80ml, is it going to harm me if not should I continue this bottle or not any suggestion will be appreciated. Sorry for bad English.

    1. Hi there Guest,
      Don’t worry about the small amount of sodium benzoate you are consuming. Finish the beverage and be sure to read the label next time you purchase. If it is too bitter, return the bottle to the store and get your money back or call the manufacturer and complain. Chances are they don’t know they have a problem with that batch. I recently did that with a carrot juice that was too bitter and got a free bottle. If you call the manufacturer, make sure you have the bottle in front of you because they will want information found on the label.

  6. Hi, a question from someone who has no background in chemistry at all, if a list of ingredients includes water, and benzoic acid, sodium hydroxidei amongst other ingredients, does that mean sodium benzoate is present? Should i avoid any products listing benzoic acid and sodium hydroxide together to be on the safe side?
    I recently discovered the carcinogenic effects of sodium benzoate, wich i previodly was let to believe was a safe preservative, whats more in my utter ignorance i used it in conjuction with a c face cream for months. To find out this combination produces a highly known carcinogen. No need to say when i found out about this my heart stopped and it is pretty devastating. But whats done its done and i need to move on from this unfortunate experience, because worrying sick about it isnt gonna do anything. I am no chemist or scientist, the only reason i know about it its because , less than a year ago i decided to transition to more natural non toxic skin care products, etc… to find out, it isnt an easy change and requires chemistry knowledge and scrutinazing every single ingredient and deep study. Going by what EWG says usnt enough at all. I am very discourage to find out, trying to switchch to non toxic alternatives has turned into a chore, ingredients reading, asking companies about their lusted or unlisted ingredients, etc…. to find out i need way more knowledge than i shoukd need just to chose a shower wash. Everytime i think i have eliminated or reduced as much as poss carcinogens off the list of products i use, i stamble upon the next carcinogen. Like with this preservative. Sorry for the ranting, but after months of transitioning and learning the hard way i am exhausted and very discouraged. Thanks for answering, hoping someone does.

    1. Don’t get discouraged. It’s really quite simple. If you don’t want to worry about chemicals in your food or personal care products, follow my approach. Buy the food and cook it yourself. That way you know exactly what’s in it. Avoid foods with nitrites (bacon, ham). Buy meat and dairy that is not laced with antibiotics and hormones. Use simple personal care products (most you can make yourself very inexpensively). Buy organically grown berries, celery and foods that may contain residual pesticides.

      Most importantly, don’t stress if you eat a little sodium benzoate now and then or treat yourself to a few slices of bacon (I love bacon, nitrites and all). It appears the biggest problems arise when we eat too many of these foods too often. Staying in a state of worry over what foods you are eating is just as bad for your health as the additives.

      Now go have fun and relax.

  7. Taco Bell mild sauce contains Sodium Benzoate. I eat around 30 packs a day with bean burritos (I love it). Was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. I am thinking it was due to the larger quantities of Taco Bell mild sauce I consumed.

    1. Yep, I like it a lot too. However, I don’t eat near as much as you. There are some great taco sauces made without sodium benzoate, but they need refrigeration.
      We wish you a fast recovery. Let us know how you’re doing. Why? Because we really care about you.
      Lots of love.

  8. A useful website for specific data about the chemistry and uses of sodium benzoate, including some interesting case studies. A note of caution, whilst sodium benzoate is used in both consumer food and industry, the level of purification and testing performed on food grade chemicals and technical or lab grade chemicals is very different.

    I hope this helps anyone out there trying to make an informed decision. We shouldn’t be scared of something because it’s a chemical, but because of repeatable, proven side effects.

  9. Wow, did the conclusion really just state “use other preservatives or NO PRESERVATIVES AT ALL”?!!!!!!!! You are actually saying it is acceptable to not use preservatives in products?! I am alarmed, especially for those who are making cosmetic products. The credibility of this website just dropped to ZERO for me. I really hope an inexperienced crafter doesn’t stumble on this and decide it’s ok to formulate without preservatives and then sell their products on eBay or Etsy based on your article! The dangers/consequences that come from not using preservatives FAR OUTWEIGH the use of appropriate preservatives themselves. Please do some actual research based on scientific data from reputable sources before posting such ignorant and irresponsible statements!

    1. Sorry for the confusion guest. If you are making small batches of creams and lotions for personal use, it is possible to avoid using preservatives. I have corrected the wording so as to avoid future confusion. However, it doesn’t look like you checked out our other posts on preservatives. Had you done so, the meaning would have been clear to you. You might consider doing so. If you plan on commercializing your formulations, you should definitely use preservatives.

  10. I have a many months long skin reaction to a shampoo I’d been using for years. I discovered they changed the ingredients and the only 2 I can whittle it down to is coco-glucoside and sodium benzoate. It’s it possible my reaction could be from either of these ingredients? I have red burning inflamed skin with pimples mostly on forehead, t-zone and sides of mouth..

    1. Either could cause an allergic reaction. No one really knows why we have allergies. Maybe some day science will have an answer. However, if the reaction doesn’t show marked improvement in a couple of days, I would see a physician. You may find you’re reacting to something entirely different. Good luck and be sure and report back on how you’re doing. We are really concerned for the well being of our Spa From Scratch family.

  11. The reason the report you mention uses benzoic acid and sodium benzoate synonymously is because there is no difference with regards to how they affect human health. Sodium benzoate = NaC7H5O2; Benzoic acid = C7H5O2. The only difference is the molecule of sodium, which falls off in water anyway.

    In any case, whether or not a compound is found naturally has nothing to do with whether it is healthy. For instance, arsenic is regularly found in natural food/water, but that doesn’t make it okay to add to our food. It’s all about concentration. It’d be much more useful if you stated how much benzoic acid is found in the apple (or whatever) vs. how much is added to foods as a preservative.


    1. Hi there Guest,

      Thank you for your comment. You’re absolutely correct in that “natural” doesn’t mean healthy. However, the information contained in the post is correct based on some pretty elaborate studies. Unfortunately, the studies were limited in some areas. Also, based on these studies, there were biochemical differences in the effects of sodium benzoate vs benzoic acid in animal models. Doing a comparitive study would be extremely difficult in that I would be unable to find an apple containing sodium benzoate. That said, I do think it’s important to update this post as new studies come in and I haven’t done that. Sometime in the near future I’ll attend to that task.

      We love hearing from our visitors, even if they disagree with us. Thank you again.

    2. It’s not about concentration – that is the error of the uninformed. It is about dosage: how much is consumed per body weight that makes the difference.

      A child of 7 kg consumes 10 times the dose of a 70 km person at the same concentration of any substance, toxic or non toxic.

  12. Hello,
    I purchased witch hazel facial wipes which contain S.B. (what brought me here) because I prefer not to wash my face too often. I am concerned about using them daily considering they contain S.B. and I don’t wash after using them… but they make my face feel so good! What should I do?

  13. “Professor Peter Piper a molecular biology expert at Sheffield University found that sodium benzoate damaged the mitochondrial DNA of yeast cells.”

    Do you realize that the purpose of using sodium benzoate as a preservative in foods is to INHIBIT THE GROWTH OF FUNGI? In case you are unaware, yeasts are classified under the kingdom fungi, so of course they are going to damage the mitochondrial DNA of yeast cells. In fact, one would hope they WOULD damage yeasts cells in order to protect us from pathogenic fungi growing in our foods.

    This is the kind of crap article that result when people who have no background in the chemical and biological sciences choose to write about topics they do not fully understand. All that results is unnecessary scaring of people who also do not understand the nature of the subject matter.

    Do yourself a favor people, read from a reputable source. Not from someone who has a degree in computer science and evidently does not even have enough background knowledge to know sodium benzoate is a fungistatic agent.

  14. It really agitates me that I eat something with sodium benzoate and now I can’t eat anything with vitamin C! And I really wanted broccoli 🙁

  15. If we found dis ingredients below
    Potassium sorbate
    Sodium benzine and
    Acid citric
    Should we worried wen we taken dis supplement everyday for whole of our life??

  16. It is far too simplistic to attribute either health or sickness solely to the consumption of so-called matter. The influence of convictions is very powerful, as experiments have shown. Reductionist science is still the dominant religion of our time and its approach is too simplistic because it simply ignores what it can not understand, measure or control (consciousness, experiences, convictions, beliefs., etc.). Numerous experiments have already clearly shown that thoughts can influence and even alter matter and therefore DNA. You attract and manifest what you really believe. The interaction with “matter” is not entirely clear yet, but the effects are obviously there (e.g. the placebo-effect).

  17. Hi, I am looking at using a supplement which contains the following and would like your advice on the chemical combination, absorbic acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, citric acid, thanks

    1. Hi there Guest,

      If you don’t mind sharing, what supplement are you considering?

      Did you mean ascorbic acid? If that’s the case, it should be fine. The same is true for citric acid. Now as for sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, they aren’t going to kill you, but, as I keep pounding in my posts, my biggest concern with these chemical preservatives is how they affect our body with long term use.

      The short story, try to avoid them as much as possible. If you have a sensitivity to potassium, you should definitely avoid foods with potassium sorbate.

        1. Yes I did. However, due to the small concentration of benzen produced (5 ppb) the World Health Organization has determined this is tolerable.

          1. Hi, I am using a serum that contains potassium sorbate,citric acid and sodium benzoate. this also considered safe in cosmetics? Or do they combine and create benzene?


          2. It depends on how the serum is produced. I would contact the manufacturer with your concerns. Be sure and get back to me with their response.

  18. Our son is extremely allergic to Sodium Benzoate, he goes into anaphylaxis and has to be rushed to hospital – the scary thing is that the drugs that are used to counter act anaphylaxis are loaded with S.B!We have had to stop the doctor’s from giving him liquid forms of medication.

  19. I had a tremendous diarrhea after consuming this in white cake – which incidentally had a list of dyes and other horrors. There are huge populations impacted by irritable bowel complaints to doctors.

    1. Hi there guest,

      So sorry you had a problem.

      Sometimes it’s difficult to know what in a particular food might be causing a problem. In this instance, it might be an ingredient in the cake or it might have been caused by something else you ate. I try and stick to natural foods that my body understands how to process.

      Have you ever had a problem before? It might be time to play food detective.

      Good luck.

  20. Pingback: Ingredients
  21. I recently purchased a bottle of Indian gooseberry juice from the medical store and found out that it contains 2 ingredients :
    1. Emblica Officinalis (Indian gooseberry) 500ml
    2. sodium benzoate 500mg
    Is this a ok combination as I am required to take 20ml twice a day. Thanks.

    1. Hi there guest,

      My biggest concern with this particular brand of juice is the possible formation of benzene due to the high concentration of vitamin C. You can buy pure Indian gooseberry from No preservatives to be found.

      If I were in your shoes, I’d call the company that produces the juice you purchased and ask them if they have tested it for benzene. If not, being the loud mouth that I am, they would start to get a name on the internet. I would also take the bottle back where I bought it and demand my money back with an explanation why.

      Warm wishes,


      1. I saw that Gooseberry Juice with Sodium Benzoate last week at my local store. After reading this blog, wow, what suppose to be health product surely isn’t. That juice is great example why it’s really important that we read the labels & research the chemical ingredients.

    2. Hi there I have looked at your artical and yes this correct but sodium benzoate is used in many metabolic illnesses here in the uk my child is on this drug and has been for 3 years and is fine long term who knows but the drinks company’s use sodium benzoate as a perservative but also to reduce the gylcine in the the brain to counter the hperactive bust for the amount of sugar consumed in a small amount of time and for those who don’t know what glycine is well its a Nero transmitter in your Brain the more your brain works or is stimulated it calls for more gylcine to transmit signals and sodium benzoate absorbs glycine confuses the liver and the liver let the glycine pass out as urine that’s the truth and with out it most well known drinks company’s would not exist

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