What is benzoic acid?

Benzoic acid is a food preservative currently approved for use in Canada, the US, the EU, Austalia, and New Zealand. It protects foods against yeasts, moulds, and certain types of bacteria.


Benzoic acid occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables.  However, on an industrial scale it is usually produced from toluene.  Toluene occurs naturally at low levels in crude oil and is usually produced in the processes of making gasoline, or making coke from coal.

If anybody is interested, the chemical formula of benzoic acid is C6H5COOH.

Other names for benzoic acid include benzenemethanoic acid or Carboxybenzene.

Common Uses

The effectiveness of benzoic acid and it’s salts depends on the acidity (pH) of the food. It may be found in acidic foods and beverages such as fruit juices, soft drinks, and pickles.

Health Issues / Side Effects

There have been reports that people suffering from asthma, aspirin sensitivity, or urticaria may have allergic reactions and/or find that their symptoms become worse after eating foods containing benzoic acid.  This may be particularly true if the foods also contain tartrazine (E102).1

There has also been some concern that benzoic acid and its salts may react with ascorbic acid in soft drinks, forming small quantities of benzene.2  This is a worry because benzene is toxic and linked to many forms of cancer.

E Number

The E number of benzoic acid is 210.

Other benzoates include sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, and calcium benzoate.  They have E numbers of 211, 212, and 213 respectively.


It seems that although benzoic acid, has been given an E number and has approval for use as a food additive in many countries, the salts of benzoic acid (sodium benzoate, calcium benzoate, and potassium benzoate) are more commonly used.  This seems to be because the salts are more easily dissolved.


  1. UK Food Guide – Benzoic Acid
  2. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment


If you want to read more, try the following links…
Canadian Food Additive Dictionary
FDA Food Additive Status List
UK Foods Standards Agency, Approved Food Additives
Food Standards – Australia and New Zealand
Chemical Land – Benzoic Acid


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  1. […] Benzoic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole/hydroxytoluene, canthaxanthin, emulsifiers, monosodium glutamate, olestra, high fructose corn syrup, blue #1, blue #2, red #40, yellow #6, yellow tartrazine, artificial, artificial, & more artificial… From my understanding, or rather from the common sense I’ve acquired over the last 22 years, I can confidently say these chemicals, fats & oils should not find their home in our bodies nor in our food supply. But yet here we are. Every “ingredient” mentioned on that list, is either linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, intense migraines & stomach pains, inflammation, rashes & even gut leakage. Lucky for us here in North America, these lovely tongue twisting ingredients are also found in nearly 80% of the food you find at your local supermarket. Needless to say, I was enraged. No wonder obesity is the biggest epidemic of my generation. Just look at what’s on the table, literally. […]

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