Potassium Sorbate – Beneficial Preservative or Harmful DNA Toxin?

potassium sorbate

Processed food is not evil. It helps us spend less time in the fields or in the kitchen and more time doing important things such as playing with our kids or working overtime. One of the tenets of processed foods is an extended shelf life. Often, it is achieved by the use of food additives known as preservatives.

Preservatives have been around for ages, perhaps the best known is salt. Modern food science has brought forth many new chemical preservatives. Unfortunately, some of them have unintended side effects on our health.

Today we’ll examine potassium sorbate, also known as E202, which serves as a preservative in a wide range of foods including:

  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • wine
  • dips
  • pickles
  • dried meats
  • soft drinks
  • baked goods
  • ice cream

Potassium sorbate inhibits the growth of mold. This is important because otherwise you’d open your product and … ewww. So we should be happy that food companies use this preservative, right?

Though found naturally in some berries, potassium sorbate is mass produced synthetically. No harm in that, especially since it makes it cheaper than sourcing from some wild berry in the Himalayas.

Potassium sorabte is also mild skin and eye irritant, but at the amounts used in food, this is not an issue expect for very rare occasions.

However, two studies have shown that potassium sorbate has the potential to mess with our DNA. In one study, PS is clearly seen to be genotoxic to the human peripheral blood lymphocytes (white blood cells). In another study, potassium sorbate mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, which is present in many foods), caused mutagenicity and DNA-damaging activity. the risk demonstrated in the studies is very low, but it is statistically significant.

Bottom line: If you can, try to avoid products using potassium sorbate as a preservative.


  1. Mamur S, Yüzbaşioğlu D, Unal F, Yilmaz S.  Does potassium sorbate induce genotoxic or mutagenic effects in lymphocytes? Toxicol In Vitro. 2010;24:790-4.
  2. Hasegawa MM, Nishi Y, Ohkawa Y, Inui N.  Effects of sorbic acid and its salts on chromosome aberrations, sister chromatid exchanges and gene mutations in cultured Chinese hamster cells. Food Chem Toxicol. 1984 ;22:501-7.
  3. Kitano K, Fukukawa T, Ohtsuji Y, Masuda T, Yamaguchi H. Mutagenicity and DNA-damaging activity caused by decomposed products of potassium sorbate reacting with ascorbic acid in the presence of Fe salt.  Food Chem Toxicol. 2002;40:1589-94.
  • KNV

    Harmful effects should be more clearly explained. Damaged or mutinagenic DNA are terms that are too broad and generic to really understand the negative health effects of Potassium Sorbate. What does this really mean? Not very informative as is. Too vague.

    • timlockk

      It means we need to do more studies to assess the safety of these products in the food supply. It is vague, yes, but that’s much better than making false assumptions based on limited data.

      • KNV

        But the title suggests that the article will give more information to help you decide whether or not it is harmful, which it really doesn’t. As it is, the title shouldn’t even ask the question. The article is just an explanation of what the substance is. It is not balanced enough to warrant negative statements in the title. It just seems like an unnecessary scare tactic with nothing to back it up.

        • timlockk

          It’s a way to get you and I to click the link to get more page hits to sell advertising. We fell for it!

          • KNV

            Tsk tsk…Fooducate should be better than that…

    • Mark

      I think the article is pretty clear. There are studies which have verified that it has damaging effects on DNA and Human while cells. Even if these effects are limited, the products which contain Potassium Sorbate with and without ascorbic acid are HUGE – it is in a LOT of processed foods and used in MOST wines to prevent mold. Obviously more studies need to be conducted but as always, these SHOULD be conducted LONG before being put into our food in mass. Food companies, chemical manufacturers and the FDA are using us as their guinea pigs and should be stopped. Chemicals are NOT humans and should not be treated as innocent until proven guilty by thousands of sicknesses and death. The problem is that with all the chemicals we ingest over such a protracted period of time – it becomes impossible to pin down which one (-s) were the causal agents in various diseases. All testing should be EXTENSIVE and done PRIOR to mixing it into our foods. If even one study revealed a potential of the damaging effects suggested in this article – it should be pulled indefinitely until 100% proof of its safe use can be established.

  • timlockk

    Call me crazy, but I think spending more time in the kitchen with our kids teaching them how to cook with whole foods is both a wonderful use of our time and a great bonding experience for everyone involved.

    • heather

      Thank you! I completely agree!

    • Maikel Smith

      um why crazy for such a simple great thing?

  • Disgusted

    I would like to know what a person can do even to eat…everything has some poison …if not this than that…I was shopping and I was reading labels and putting everything back..what do you eat besides fresh veggies and fruit..yes you can cook healthy..but life cannot be about every aspect of food and what these crazy disgusting people put into it…people don’t care enough to educate themselves and stop purchasing junk and people are not interested to boycott these franchises …..what then?????

    • mahope

      Hello everyone,
      Disgusted you pulled at my hearts strings so I decided to post. 2 years ago we received a new bundle of joy in the form of a 90 pound, 10 year old, non verbal autistic grandson. I was spinning in circles to put it mildly. WE (my husband & I) wanted to help. We were supposed to have our bundle of joy for a year but he has fit like a glove in our hearts & is here to stay.

      I spent countless hours researching,reading labels,looking for & researching Doctors,Doctor appointments,schools, teachers, treatments,food allergies,nutrition,etc, etc… The list & possibilities were endless.

      I can honestly say that today by eliminating 1 item at a time things around my home & life have changed significantly, I didn’t think about all the bad things still lurking around my home, it became to over whelming for me to handle. I soon realized that by eliminating 1 thing such as High fructose sugar that I just eliminated thousands of products from our use. then I moved onto using raw forms of products such as sugar & salt,organic seasonings(this means throwing out the old & not replacing with the same product). If its painful to throw out give it to 1 of those persons that don’t care, but take advantage of the opportunity to share WHY you are throwing it out. I didn’t feel so guilty then about wasting my money to begin with or the idea that I am giving away what I believe is poisoning my family.

      My grandson gave me the best present for Mothers Day this year. He asked his 1st question. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking of the overwhelming joy we shared that day.

      The reason I even visited this page was for the article about potassium sorbate. I want to make some homemade bug repellant. I was getting eaten alive in my garden weeding the 40 pickling cucumber plants I planted so that I can put a 100 jars of organic pickles up for him to eat this fall,winter and spring. See it all starts with 1 small action, Once you figure that out move onto the next. If you don’t figure it out move onto the next (as you can see, i said NEXT not the REST)thats just to big for me. I’ve decided to use sea salt in my bug repellant for now. I will come back to do more research though.

      And by the way. My grandsons 1st question was,” Hey, what is this) as he pointed to a dish that was covered on the table.

      Hope this was helpful. I guess the short version for me is All things are possible with God who gives me strength. Take one day at a time & one change at a time :-)

      Take care,

      • Chloe Blue

        So beautiful! Thank you for your story.
        You may already know of these things, but a heavy metal cleansing with cilantro and a very high quality chlorella can have an immense healing effect on your grandson.

        Do a google search for “Cilantro helps detox heavy metals”

        There are multiple articles on “Natural News” regarding this.
        It has to be done carefully and there is a lot of information out there to help with specifics.

        Lugol’s iodine and magnesium citrate are both wonderful agents which support the detox process.

        The Westion Price Foundation has very good recommendations for eating plans which heal many issues.

        I am sending you the biggest prayer for continued healing for your grandson and much happiness to you as well! :-)

      • Bill Wellisch

        Ditto to most of what was said. I add it feels good to feel good nowdays. I’m almost 70 and getting better health than ever. It is a choice, not the protective take care of our government and some good neighbors. Thanks for the info on Potassium Sorbate.It is in a spray at .1% for my chickens. Mites and other critters X.I think my grandkids can be around the gals, and collect the eggs!

      • amb111

        One thing to try: use a fan while you are working in the garden. The bugs can only fly about 1.5 miles per hour, and the wind from the fan is too fast for them. It’s amazing how well this works.

    • Sarel “DaSchlick” Rich

      I would suggest you to buy fruits, vegetables and meats at your local farmers market.
      I live in Jerusalem, Israel. We don’t have a farmers market here but I get a basket of organic vegetables delivered to me from a local farm, which actually turns out cheaper. I try not to buy fruit from the supermarket, I pick wild fruit, I mainly only buy apples. I forage for mushrooms and local wild plants. Figs, pomegranates, grapes, olives, plums, apticots, and raspberrys all grow wild within a ten minute walk from my house. Most of my spices and teas I grow in pots, strawberries as well. Flours and sugar I buy from the organic foods store. I make bread, jam, juices, wines, liquers, almond milk and almond flour at home, all learned from the internet, not hard at all. I haven’t looked into eggs and dairy products because my son is allergic but I’m sure I could find local farms for those as well.
      And I have no car and work 8 to 4 and still have time to spend with my family, mostly spent gathering food in the garden/forest and cooking it in the kitchen.

      • Mr. Balfour

        All the land you have stolen from the ethnically cleansed Palestinians.
        Have you buried any children alive today in your American built D9 bulldozers?

        • Sarel “DaSchlick” Rich

          I didn’t steal any land. I live in a town on the south side of jerusalem next to the Palestinian town I love my Palestinian neighbors and believe that both the Israeli and Palestinian governments are fools for not making political peace, because all around me there is peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
          So before you make stupid comments based on assumptions from geographic locations, THINK, Mr Balfour. Don’t be a bigot.

          • Mr. Balfour

            Typical, lying, arrogant Zionist. It only takes about a minute to seek, and find the maps showing mass-murdering, Israeli border expansion. Like this one for instance:


            How is your American taxpayer funded, 30ft, apartheid wall doing today? Palestinian olive groves used to grow there, until you bulldozed them all and poisoned their water-wells.

          • Sarel “DaSchlick” Rich

            First, i am tottaly apposed to that wall, but unfortunatly it is necessary to stop terror. So apparently you are a terror suppurting bigot. What does the Israel Palestinian strife have to do with potassium sorbate? Well, Anyway Mr. Bigot..uhm, I mean Balfour, keep trolling about a people who brought their own suffering on themselves, there are much worse atrocities in Africa, Syria, Iran and other countries being committed by muslims, but no, you choose the poor Palestinians to sympathise with. Go join Isis and maybe they’ll let you kill yourself while blowing up a building. That’s better than trolling about Palestinians on the internet. Enjoy your useless life. Bye.

          • Lek Simpson

            Good luck Sarel,the majority of people in the world know that islam is the world`s cancer,and have great respect for the way Israeli people deal with it on their doorstep.You guys have the patience of saints!Posted by Lek`s husband,Len.

  • Mr4theluv

    Very unusual article for Fooducate.This one is both poorly written and pretty shallow. I don’t always agree with the opinions and tone of some articles here, but they are generally well written and I leave at least a bit more educated. This is a great and informative blog as a rule, so I’m sure this is just an exception.

    • samljer22

      More then likely you just dont like what was written.
      its all true by the way. look around more.

  • Brian

    i found this article for some education, but the very first sentence made me immediately stop reading. what a joke.

  • tatiana

    You all should go and read better what Potassium Sorbate does to cancer …it cures can yo believe it ??I just found that out. Go and read the beneficial no more chemotherapy or those crappy killer medicine that doctors give to “cure ” cancer

    • Chloe Blue

      That actually makes sense, since cancer has been linked to systemic candida ( a fungus) and this preservative inhibits mold, another fungus.

  • Sarel “DaSchlick” Rich

    Wow, working over time is more important than working in the kitchen or field, I personally prefer to spend time with my family growing food and making it than cramming over documents in front of a flickering screen.

  • Emily Finnan

    This last paragraph is lacking a very, very important distinction. Both of those studies were done in cell culture, where you take human cells, put in a dish and dump a bunch of potassium sorbate on it. This is NOT how it works in our body or how this research should be interpreted! You can kill human cells by adding salt solutions, that does not mean salt kills humans.

    First off, everything we eat has to first be digested and absorbed, what is not absorbed does not enter our body, your GI track is essentially on the outside of you (weird but true). potassium sorbate would dissociate into potassium and sorbic acid, potassium is a mineral that you need to live. It’s a nutrient in the US we generally don’t eat enough of! Sorbic acid gets absorbed separately and excreted as CO2 when you breath.

    They’ve done studies in rats where they’ve given them in diet up to 9,200mg/kg of body weight per day (which is HUGE) and no adverse effects were seen.

    The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) even reviewed the 2nd study, noting that the combo of Fe salt, vitamin C, and PS was under optimum experiment conditions and not likely for that to actually happen within a food.

    REad more here: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4144

    Cell culture studies are important but they are NOT, NOT, EVER diet recommendations! Don’t be scared by this article. Potassium sorbate is FINE and in lots of healthy foods like yogurt to prevent mold growth.

  • Toy Pupanbai

    Shall I spit this wine out?
    I think I’ll chance it!

  • Gina Hunter

    Potassium sorbate has proved a menace for our little girl, it makes her aggressive, hyperactive, hypersensitive and results in disturbed sleep patterns and skin issues. There is very little evidence about this on the web but it is definitely something that effects a lot of children out there.
    I have a blog and would be interested if anyone else experiences these issues with potassium sorbate and their child.

  • PLayboy

    I don’t give a damn im putting this preservative in my products and I will get rich off of it.

  • samljer22

    Well shit, ive been adding this to wine kits for years. time to find something else.

  • Chris’s WaterFowl

    The problems with processed foods is, they are not made for every person as every human’s body works a bit differently than the next. Like a Doctor trying meds on their patients till they find the correct one that works. Many times the sight effects are horrible and this is what they call mental health. Very seldom do they test the blood with the drugs as it’s too costly. So preservatives and medical drugs could conflict thus causing mental health issues. Then add alcohol with the mix and they people go loopy and do bad things!