Common Side Effects of Potassium Sorbate

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Pickled cucumbers in jar on white

What Is Potassium Sorbate?

If you eat baked goods, canned vegetables, and cheese on a regular basis, then you are likely eating potassium sorbate. In fact, potassium sorbate is a very common chemical added to food as it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to make. If you’re not trying to avoid it, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re eating it.

Potassium sorbate has long been considered a safe and non-toxic food additive. However, several studies have suggested that the chemical can actually be toxic. As well, some researchers now believe that potassium sorbate can cause a wide range of long-term health problems and side effects.

While it’s been known that the chemical can cause problems for people with potassium allergies, it now appears that anyone could be affected by eating too much potassium sorbate in their diet.

Uses of Potassium Sorbate

Potassium sorbate is a chemical that is added to food to help prevent the growth of fungi and mold. It can be used in a wide range of foods without breaking down and it has no taste or smell, making it a popular food additive.

Food Preservative: Potassium sorbate is used particularly in foods that are stored at room temperature or that are precooked, such as canned fruits and vegetables, canned fish, dried meat, and desserts. It’s also commonly used in food that is prone to mold growth, such as dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Many foods that are not fresh rely on potassium sorbate and other preservatives to keep them from spoiling. In general, potassium sorbate in food is very common.

Winemaking: Potassium sorbate is also commonly used in winemaking, to prevent wine from losing its flavor. Without a preservative, the fermentation process in wine would continue and cause the flavor to change. Soft drinks, juices, and sodas also often use potassium sorbate as a preservative.

Beauty Products: While the chemical is common in food, there are many other potassium sorbate uses. Many beauty products are also prone to mold growth and use the preservative to extend the life of skin and haircare products. It is very likely that your shampoo, hair spray, or skin cream contains potassium sorbate.


Potassium Sorbate: Is It a Harmful Toxin?

Preservatives are necessary to extend the life of many foods. Without preservatives, we would not be able to eat canned fruits and vegetables, dairy products, or many desserts, as they would spoil and go bad within a short amount of time.

As well, mold and fungi in food are potential health hazards. Eating mold can make you sick, and some molds produce their own toxins that can damage our health. It is important that we prevent mold growth in our food.

Potassium sorbate has long been considered a beneficial preservative, as it is very effective at preventing mold growth. However, is potassium sorbate safe?

Two recent studies have suggested that potassium sorbate can be toxic and may have significant health effects on our bodies. One study found that potassium sorbate can damage white blood cells. Potassium sorbate was found to be genotoxic, meaning it could damage genetic information, cause mutations and even lead to cancer.

Another study highlighted more potassium sorbate dangers. In this study, when potassium sorbate was combined with ascorbic acid, it caused DNA-damaging activity. Ascorbic acid is more commonly known as vitamin C and is common in many foods. Particularly with canned fruits or soda drinks, it is very possible to be eating a combination of potassium sorbate and ascorbic acid.

Side Effects of Potassium Sorbate

While research is still being done on how toxic potassium sorbate is, we already know many of the adverse side effects it can cause.

For example, using skin creams or other beauty products with potassium sorbate can cause skin irritation, redness, rashes, burning or watery eyes, and other reactions. This is more common in people with potassium allergies, although using an excessive amount of beauty products could lead to some of these reactions.

However, it is potassium sorbate in food that poses more of a problem. Potassium sorbate dangers can be significant and have a damaging effect on our health. Eating too much potassium sorbate preservative over a long period of time could lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

Furthermore, long-term dietary intake of potassium sorbate can cause nutritional deficiencies, which is when your body does not absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals properly. Digestive problems can often lead to nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies are linked to a wide number of serious heath complications, which means that eating too much potassium sorbate can pave the road for bigger health problems later in life.

How to Avoid Side Effects of Potassium Sorbate

There are many potassium sorbate side effects, but chances are that you will be able to avoid them as long as you limit how much of the preservatives you eat. Since it’s in so many foods, it can be very difficult to avoid potassium sorbate. However, there are some simple changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that can reduce the amount you are eating and help prevent health problems from arising.

  • Eat Fresh Food: The easiest way to avoid potassium sorbate is by eating fresh food instead of processed foods. Fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and fish, should be purchased fresh instead of in cans or precooked. In particular, processed meats, like salami and cold cuts, should also be avoided.
  • Check the Ingredients: Another potassium sorbate precaution you can take is to check the ingredients list on any processed or canned foods that you buy. Some foods use natural preservatives like vinegar, salt, and ascorbic acid. When you are buying preserved foods, choose the ones that use natural preservatives instead of potassium sorbate.
  • Sterile Filtering: For wine, sterile filtering can help reduce potassium sorbate. If overconsumption of potassium sorbate is a problem, you may want to reduce the amount of wine you are drinking.

Potassium Sorbate Precautions

When you are using food or products with potassium sorbate, there are some extra precautions you can take to limit the damage and side effects they can cause.

If your skincare or hair products contain potassium sorbate, you should take special precautions to ensure that you do not get it in your eyes. If you do get a beauty product with potassium sorbate in your eyes, you should thoroughly rinse out your eye and potentially seek out medical attention to rule out any damage.

As well, store food with potassium sorbate in dark, cool environments, such as cupboards or pantries. Keep them out of direct sunlight.

Limit Your Potassium Sorbate Intake

Potassium sorbate is in a lot of our food and there’s a very high chance that you regularly eat it. Avoiding it entirely is close to impossible, but limiting how much you eat can prevent the health complications and side effects that result from overconsumption. Eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat—not only will you reduce the amount of potassium sorbate you are eating, but it’s good for you in general!

Sources for Today’s Article:
Billings-Smith, L., “What is Potassium Sorbate,”, April 23, 2015;
Godbole, M., “Potassium Sorbate Dangers and Side Effects,” Buzzle web site;, last accessed December 2, 2015.
“Potassium Sorbate,” New Health Guide web site;, last accessed December 2, 2015.
Weingarten, H., “Potassium Sorbate – Beneficial Preservative or Harmful Toxin?” Fooducate web site, April 11, 2014;