Question: Is The Preservative Benzoic Acid Dangerous?
Are there any negative health issues associated with eating a product that has the preservative benzoic acid?
Sodium benzoate (aka benzoic acid, benzoate of soda, and E211) is a chemical preservative that is particularly effective against yeasts. It is one of the most widely used of all preservatives.
Initially, the problem was thought to come not so much from benzoic acid (sodium benzoate) by itself, but from combining benzoic acid with ascorbic acid. Together, they can produce benzene, a known carcinogen. Recent research, however, indicates that sodium benzoate by itself, in sufficient amounts, may switch off vital parts of DNA.
Because of the controversy, some companies are moving away from sodium benzoate, whereas others are still resisting. The problem is that although there are alternatives, they either do not work as well, have their own health problems, or are more expensive.
For beverages, the better option is post pasteurization. It is more expensive but does not introduce its own health problems — although it can affect the taste.