Sodium benzoate is a popular preservative found in many foods and beverages, and manufacturers add it to more acidic products like soda as a way to prevent spoilage. Sodium benzoate is recognized as a safe food additive as long as it is added and consumed in small doses but it may create negative health effects under certain circumstances. Continued review by public health organizations may provide the information that consumers may need in order to assess the benefits and risks of sodium benzoate.
Sodium benzoate is formulated by neutralizing sodium hydroxide and benzoic acid. Benzoic acid is considered to be more effective as a preservative, but it dissolves poorly in water. Sodium benzoate dissolves readily in water, and this is why it is used more often in terms of food and beverage preservation. The Food and Drug Administration assesses the effects of sodium benzoate according to body weight, and other organizations have reported safe daily levels according to body weight as well. Food is a common source of this preservative, and foods like apples, cranberries, prunes, and cinnamon contain natural traces of sodium benzoate.
Findings reported by the Mayo Clinic have implicated sodium benzoate as a possible stimulus for hyperactivity in some children, but sodium benzoate is not considered to be a cause of the disorder on its own. Most individuals may ingest sodium benzoate without experiencing appreciable side effects, and additional research may be needed before drawing any definitive conclusions about the effects of ingesting this food additive. Sodium benzoate may form benzene when it is combined with ascorbic acid, and this possibility may be a concern in terms of increased risks for certain blood disorders. Continued review of sodium benzoate still results in safe usage levels, and any concerns about health risks should be considered prior to consuming soda or other beverages that may contain sodium benzoate.