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Sodium benzoate is an aromatic chemical compound with the formula C7H5NaO2. It is used as a preservative in food and pharmaceuticals, inhibiting the growth of microorganisms like bacteria, yeast and mold. It also helps prevent fatty foods from becoming rancid. The compound is a white crystalline powder and has a sweet taste. It has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, and is readily soluble in acidic environments. It can be analyzed using HPLC, GC and IR spectroscopy.
It is generally considered safe (GRAS) to use in foods up to a concentration of 0.1%, but this is limited by its effectiveness within a narrow pH range. It has good solubility in ethanol and glycerol, and is easily absorbed through the skin. It has a big lipophilicity, which allows it to penetrate the cells, interfere with the permeability of the cell membrane, and stop condensation reaction of acetyl coenzyme A.
When heated with a mixture of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and calcium oxide, it can be converted to benzene hexachloride through the Dumas reaction. This is a concern because high levels of benzene consumption have been associated with certain cancers (7).
Sodium benzoate is widely available in a wide variety of forms. American Elements offers the compound in a number of standard grades, including Mil-Spec; ACS, Reagent and Technical Grade; Food, Agricultural and Pharmaceutical Grade; Optical Grade; and USP and EP/BP. The material is produced to strict manufacturing standards and is suitable for most applications.