The 411 on additive 211 – Sodium Benzoate

DNA damage, allergic reactions, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, neurodegenerative diseases, premature aging, hyperactivity – food and drink companies will risk a lot to ensure a longer shelf life for their products! Sodium Benzoate is a preservative that limits the growth of bacteria and fungus and the fermentation of glucose in drinks and some foods. At low doses, the FDA and other food authorities have approved it for safe consumption however, when combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it becomes a dangerous and even deadly chemical, benzene.

Benzene is so carcinogenic that it has been widely banned as an ingredient in gasoline and yet appears in products like Pepsi, Fanta, some salad dressings and even bread.

According to Professor Peter Piper of the University of Sheffield, consumption of Benzoate alone can also lead to damage to mitochondrial DNA (the DNA responsible for keeping cells “fed”) which in turn can induce degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s as well as premature aging.

As shelf life can affect the levels of benzene in a product, it is difficult to regulate quantities. Studies found levels 40 times higher than the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council safe consumption level in random samples of flavored beverages and one in ten bottles contained higher than the World Health Organization guidelines recommend.

Soda producers have stated the intention to phase out the use of E211 when a suitable replacement has been developed and it has already been removed from Diet Coke in some countries.

It’s true that it can be confusing to know what is certified safe and what is not. This could be the reason that this problem has gone unchecked for so long. When choosing products for your family, purchase anything containing Sodium Benzoate (additive number E211) with caution but avoid any product that combines E211 with any variation of vitamin C (E300 – E305) but especially ascorbic acid E300. Unfortunately, the only way to protect our families at this stage is through boycott of the products in question.

Susan Long is a campaigner for the rights of children and the protection of families. She works on food safety campaigns in her own time and raising living standards on the boss’s time at Rent To Buy

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