Is Potassium Sorbate Bad for You?

Is Potassium Sorbate Bad for You?
4.11 (82.22%) 18 votes

Is the preservative used to prevent mold growth in foods such as cheese, yogurt, wine, dried meat, pickles, apple cider, and many herbal dietary supplements harmful for humans?

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Previously, we’ve looked at the safety of the preservative sodium benzoate. But what about potassium sorbate, commonly used to prevent mold growth in cheese, yogurt, wine, dried meat, pickles, apple cider, and many herbal dietary supplements? Harmful, harmless, or helpful?

Well, it’s been found harmless to Syrian hamsters, but toxic to Chinese hamsters. Then, they discovered it’s actually harmless to Chinese hamster ovary cells, just toxic to Chinese hamster lung cells—but harmless to mouse lung cells. Now rats are a whole ‘nother story.

But what about human cells? Took us until now to find out: “Does potassium sorbate induce genotoxic or mutagenic effects in lymphocytes [human lymphocytes, white blood cells]?” The paper concludes: “Based on our…results, consumers should be made aware that [potassium sorbate] should be considered a genotoxic and mutagenic compound.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Previously, we’ve looked at the safety of the preservative sodium benzoate. But what about potassium sorbate, commonly used to prevent mold growth in cheese, yogurt, wine, dried meat, pickles, apple cider, and many herbal dietary supplements? Harmful, harmless, or helpful?

Well, it’s been found harmless to Syrian hamsters, but toxic to Chinese hamsters. Then, they discovered it’s actually harmless to Chinese hamster ovary cells, just toxic to Chinese hamster lung cells—but harmless to mouse lung cells. Now rats are a whole ‘nother story.

But what about human cells? Took us until now to find out: “Does potassium sorbate induce genotoxic or mutagenic effects in lymphocytes [human lymphocytes, white blood cells]?” The paper concludes: “Based on our…results, consumers should be made aware that [potassium sorbate] should be considered a genotoxic and mutagenic compound.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to www.justfinewine.caQuinn Dombrowski / Flickr, and www.innocentenglish.com.

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out all my other videos on preservatives

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Should We Avoid Titanium Dioxide?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

82 responses to “Is Potassium Sorbate Bad for You?

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  1. Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out all the videos on preservatives. And don’t forget, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

    1. Good day sir
      I am engr. emmanuel. Please I want to know whether potassium sorbate harmful to human health if use on soy milk/beans production and the quantity needed on 1 batch of production in 750 litres of tanker

    2. Hello doctor
      Is it ok if i used potassium sorbate on milk (cow) . The milk condition is i mix the milk with banana, i wanna make them into smoothie

  2. Amazing site!I was diagnosed with R.A. over four years ago,methotrexate,sulfasalisine,plaquenol,enbrel,were some of my meds.I have been a vegan since Jan./11.My blood work shows none of the bio markers for the disease,I have no symptoms of R.A.My rheumatologists told me there was no cure,just lifelong medication. My own research on R.A. led me to a plant based diet with Zero animal products.I am now the healthiest I have ever been in my life.Thank you for this site it is an excellent source of nutritional information.

    1. Awesome! I love hearing about healing through a plant based diet. Its amazing how effective your body becomes once you give it the right stuff to work with!

  3. Hi Dr. Greger, What is your take on potassium sorbate used as a cosmetic
    preservative? Would it also be considered toxic? Was the study
    primarily done on potassium sorbate ingested through food? It would
    worry me a bit more in a cosmetic product since the skin absorbs what is
    put on it and it bypasses the liver. Thanks!

  4. Yipes I’m scared!  I just had blood work that shows that my potassium level is off-the-charts high!
    1) What would you suggest diet-wise and 2) If all vegans and vegetarians don’t have this problem, what would be occurring in my body that would cause this?  THANKS!

    1. The concern of getting in too much of any one nutrient from a whole
      foods plant based diet is really unfounded and virtually impossible.
      Rare exceptions include too much selenium from eating too many brazil
      nuts and of course, too much saturated fat from foods like coconut and
      the tropical oils.

      However, there are several medical conditions, such as kidney disease, where potassium may have to be limited and in those cases

      1. I had 2 kidneys failures from gentamicin and was on 20meq everyday for about 2 weeks and im still to this day having low B12 But it comes from A.L.L However im only taking B12, Multi vit/min and “K” Things are looking good. I needed 3 years of chemo only did about 6-7 months and i am 12 months in remission Wooo

          1. and Chaga Mushroom along with Reishi and even the common Turkey Tail. Chaga is the Black boil found on Birch trees. Remember the Black stuff has even more anti Cancer/Immune system activators than the interior so no need to clean. Just Boil and simmer for 1 hr or 2 hrs and mix with your Chai, Coffee Teas and Soups etc. Has a surprisingly mild taste. You can boil them again and reuse twice or I’ve even used 3 times. You can harvest them Now in the middle of winter. Go for it and let the Nature of our Creator show you True Healing. And change your diet! Life comes from live

        1. The national Academy of Science, a very reputable organization who has collected years of research over the topic to come to the conclusion is makes, disagrees.

          “Saturated fatty acids are synthesized by the body to provide an adequate level needed for their physiological and structural functions: they have no known role in preventing chronic diseases. Therefore, neither and AI nor RDA is set for saturated fatty acids. There is a positive linear trend between total saturated fatty acid intake and total low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration and increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). A UL is not set for saturated fatty acids because any incremental increase in saturated fatty acids increased CHD risk.”

          http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10490&page=422

          1. Hi, I am not sure if I fully understand your answer. My daughter and I take a spoonful or two of coconut oil in our morning smoothies. I know coconut oil has saturated fats but I remember reading it was GOOD ones…whatever that entailed. Is that bad? Could you please clarify?

          2. L.D.L. isn’t cholesterol, it is only a carrier. Cholesterol is absolutely vital to every body function and cannot be shown to be linked to coronary heart disease at all. In Britain the Heart foundation’s own figures show that the males’ cholesterol levels are being reduced drastically, whilst the heart disease levels are staying the same. Cholesterol being a terrorist is a massive money-making scam. In Japan, the figures show those that have higher cholesterol levels, live longer and healthier. The cholesterol scam was started in the Yankee Military by a gangster called Ancel Keys. His ‘research’ is as bent and corrupt as it could be.

            Everyone should watch ‘Statin Nation’. There is a segment on youtube from the documentary.

    2. Hi Deb, I am one of the medical moderators here :)

      What is your diet? Do you have any health conditions? Do you use any salt substitutes? Or take any supplements?

      The most common reasons for high potassium in a health person I have seen are supplements and potassium-based salt substitute use.

      How high was it?

    1. Me too!!! I just had testing at Johns Hopkins, using the raw powder form of Potassium Sorbate. The head of the allergy dept taste-tested the samples they prepared for me. He told me it gave him a huge headache the rest of the day. I am “allergic” to PS at this point, it causes my asthma and other health issues – including blemishes all around the mouth area. Feel free to check out my FB page “Breaking Out of Preservative Prison”. The FB page address is www facebook.com/PreservativeAllergiesI discuss PS specifically but also promote & educate about chemical-free living – foods, health, home & body products. I search out truly safe products and sell & promote them. Good luck!

  5. WHAT A SHAME YOU GIVE NO POSSIBILITY OF SENDING THIS IN EMAIL FORM! I HAVE MANY FRIENDS INTERESTED IN THIS SITE BUT I AM MOST DEFINITELY NOT INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED IN ANY SOCIAL NETWORKS. PLEASE GIVE THE POSSIBILITY OF EMAILING THESE DETAILS

    1. I know I’m late responding but I just read recently that the creator of sriracha is willing to give out his formula. He says it’s better if you make it fresh yourself anyway.

  6. Someone noted in the comments that potassium sorbate should be limited in kidney disease, but I didn’t see a doctor’s response. I have Chronic Kidney Disease (not on dialysis) and I am supposed to avoid foods with a lot of potassium.

    When I read labels, for instance this morning on a jelly label, I find that it has “less than 2%” of potassium sorbate. Is this in the same family as potassium? Is there enough postassium sorbate when used as a preservative to add significantly to potassium load?

  7. I just ate some dried fruit and when buying I noticed Potassium Sorbate in every type of dried fruit I looked at. I have to raise my eyebrow at the leaving out of dried fruit from the list.

  8. My 2 1/2 year old grandson has been drinking propel zero water. I am concerned about him consuming some of the additives as well as the preservatives in this product. I would like to know your thoughts.

  9. I had 2 kidneys failures from gentamicin and was on 20meq everyday for about 2 weeks and im still to this day having low B12 But it comes from A.L.L However im only taking B12, Multi vit/min and “K” Things are looking good. I needed 3 years of chemo only did about 6-7 months and i am 12 months in remission Woooo

  10. I am a liver transplant person as of 5/13/13. Lately my potassiym has gone from 5.4 to 6.2, a very dangerous place to be from.what my doctor tells me. I’ve been told no potassium, but I see in numerous foods potassium sorbate, is this also a no-no as I like Mrs. Butterworth syrup if I eat it once a week? Thank you, Martha Taylor

  11. My friend had some liposomal gluthione for a few days and his intestines got all irritated after that, thus severely limiting his already limited foods he can eat without harming his sensitive gut. It also seems to be irritating my gut after taking the same liposomal glutathione for a couple of weeks. I noticed today that it has potassium sorbate as a preservative. Neither of us eats preserved foods and make everything else as much as possible from scratch, so this is our only exposure to the potassium sorbate. So thank you for posting the information that potassium sorbate is a genotoxic and mutagenic compound for humans. It helps simplify what is going on with him–and me. I will have to listen to the video again however to catch who did the research. It would be nice to be able to better source it. Thanks however for finally letting the public begin to glean what is going on with possible side effects from potassium sorbate.

  12. I experience extreme stomach pain and cramping after drinking wines containing sulfites and some foods that are preserved with sulfites, I try to stay away from those foods, but every once in a while I encounter the same symptoms after eating other foods. Yesterday, I had some jelly that contained Potassium Sorbate, and experienced the same symptoms. Is there anything that I can take to help me overcome these symptoms once they start occurring? I recently traveled to Africa, and found a vast majority of their bottled waters contain sulfites.

    1. Sulfites are really bad for you. Only American wines have them because, even though 80% of American prepackaged food is so toxic it is banned in foreign countries, there is still little awareness of this. Sulfites cause joint pain and heart arrhythmias. European wines don’t have sulfites because they know how bad they are.

    2. Potassium sorbate is toxic. Read Dr. Mercola’s website. It is much more honest than most websites on nutrition. He has no agendas and doesn’t care if he treads on the feet of big industries that make money poisoning Americans.

      1. joseph mercola is refreshing because you doesn’t talk or act like “doctors” whom am so allergic to.
        He’s a very passionate activist like me But OVERLY greedy, meaning no so trustful ! He warns about
        the Harm and Dangers of Potassium sorbate and Citric acid, Soy, and many other synthetic & GMO ingredients/substances, Yet he uses them in his own Supplements and desperately sell them to his
        very LOYAL customers/consumers/readers. That’s a serious criminal offence

    3. I have posted related info on several strings here – here is the main info again, for background info BUT want to add – WINES may or may not add Potassium Sorbate. The ones that do make me violently ill when I drink them. I actually have to call individual vineyards before I know if a particular wine is safe to drink. With your story, I suspect you have become “overloaded” similar to me, and your body is beginning to reject particular chemicals – ultimately, you will be sensitive to all manmade chemicals. Transitioning to organic is the only thing I found to have helped me.
      I just had testing at Johns Hopkins, using the raw powder form of Potassium Sorbate. The head of the allergy dept taste-tested the samples they prepared for me. He told me it gave him a huge headache the rest of the day. I am “allergic” to PS at this point, it causes my asthma and other health issues – including blemishes all around the mouth area. Feel free to check out my FB page “Breaking Out of Preservative Prison”. The FB page address is www facebook.com/PreservativeAllergiesI discuss PS specifically but also promote & educate about chemical-free living – foods, health, home & body products. I search out truly safe products and sell & promote them. Good luck!

  13. Dear Dr. Greger:
    I am seeing ads for soaking in epsom salts as a better way to absorb needed magnexium, instead of diet or supplements. While magneium is absorbed through the skin, how would a person ever figure out how much he/she is getting? Have you sen any research in this area?

  14. Potassium Sorbate. Is this one of those products that can cause damage if you use say 2000# a day? Many products as you know are virtually harmless at very small doses.

    1. That’s the exact reason (denial) that America is the 48th healthiest in the world and why 80% of American prepackaged food is so toxic it is banned in foreign countries….

    2. Please know that you are wrong – the amounts we are using at this point, in conjunction with all the other toxic chemicals, is absolutely unsafe! I just had testing at Johns Hopkins, using the raw powder form of Potassium Sorbate, so I feel qualified to weigh in on this subject. I am “allergic” to PS at this point, it causes my asthma and other health issues – including blemishes all around the mouth area. Feel free to check out my FB page “Breaking Out of Preservative Prison”. The FB page address is www facebook.com/PreservativeAllergiesI discuss PS specifically but also promote & educate about chemical-free living – foods, health, home & body products. I search out truly safe products and sell & promote them. Good luck! I am “allergic” to PS at this point, it causes my asthma and other health issues – including blemishes all around the mouth area. Feel free to check out my FB page “Breaking Out of Preservative Prison”. The FB page address is www facebook.com/PreservativeAllergiesI discuss PS specifically but also promote & educate about chemical-free living – foods, health, home & body products. I search out truly safe products and sell & promote them. Good luck!

  15. I have written a little paper about the possible connection between Potassium Sorbate, and other preservatives, with occurrences of Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation. Anne Sherman (retired RN)

    1. I am “allergic” to PS at this point, it causes my asthma and other health issues – including blemishes all around the mouth area. Feel free to check out my FB page “Breaking Out of Preservative Prison”. The FB page address is www facebook.com/PreservativeAllergiesI discuss PS specifically but also promote & educate about chemical-free living – foods, health, home & body products. I search out truly safe products and sell & promote them. Good luck!

  16. Interesting and valuable information. I have observed anecdotal evidence that sorbates in soft drinks can sterilize beneficial lactobacilli (or else why would they be used to stabilize yogurt?) as I once tried to lacto-culture some sorbated commercial soda to make it less harmful. It wouldn’t culture, though plain sugar water cultures like the dickens! Do you want to sterilize your beneficial gut flora? Consume sorbates!

  17. Not sure if you’re still checking this, but I was wondering if you know of headaches as a side effect of potassium sorbate. I’m using water flavorings like Mio and I find that some give me headaches and some don’t. I’ve ruled out sucralose as first there’s no real evidence for it as a cause of headaches and second it’s in some of the flavorings that don’t give me headaches. The only other common denominators from the ones that cause headaches are potassium sorbate and propylene glycol. It’s definitely the flavorings and some diet drinks as I can reproduce it easily. I can even dial up the severity of the symptoms by drinking more.

    The obvious answer is avoid the ones that cause headaches, but it’d be good to find the root cause so I’ll know ahead of time from the label if it’s an issue.

    1. I just had testing at Johns Hopkins, using the raw powder form of Potassium Sorbate. The head of the allergy dept taste-tested the samples they prepared for me. He told me it gave him a huge headache the rest of the day so I would guess that yes, this is the ingredient causing your headaches. I am “allergic” to PS at this point, it causes my asthma and other health issues – including blemishes all around the mouth area. Feel free to check out my FB page “Breaking Out of Preservative Prison”. The FB page address is www facebook.com/PreservativeAllergiesI discuss PS specifically but also promote & educate about chemical-free living – foods, health, home & body products. I search out truly safe products and sell & promote them. Good luck!

  18. I read all of this and found it very frustrating. So many people have the same question I do, but there was no direct response. Is potassium sorbate of the same group of potassiums that people with kidney disease are supposed to avoid or is it different somehow?

  19. As a cancer researcher and general health nut, it would seem to me, to be common sense, that when we add chemicals to our food supply, our water and in fact in the air we breathe, it does not take a rocket scientist, which I am not anyway, to ascertain that we are slowly or perhaps quickly doing ourselves in. When we ask such questions as to why there is so much more cancer now, than say 50 years ago, we only have to look at our environment and draw the obvious conclusion that chemicals kill — period. Why are they made and why are we told they are necessary — Well, the answer is $$$$$$$.$$ !!!!!

  20. Does potassium sorbate combined with citric acid become carcinogenic (like the combo of citric acid and sodium benzoate)?

    1. No, potassium sorbate is not carcinogenic in any form. In Cell testing it is found to effect lymphocytes and DNA structures. Let it be said that these studies were done on human and animal cells in a lab Pietri dish. PS changed the human cell in this form but did not harm or effect the human or animal cells in studies where actual BODIES were used. Interestingly enough, if you pour pure salt on a human cell in a Pietri dish it also destroys the cell and causes a whole host of problems for the cell but our cells need sodium to live. Please, do your own research and don’t let one article based on someone else’s hearsay bias your opinion. This is why people aren’t vaccinating their children, can’t explain why GMO’s are bad just know you aren’t supposed to eat them and protests soy but has a cupboard full of processed food.

  21. For people with acute kidney disease (stage 4 and 5, especially) are snack food made with potassium sorbate a ‘no no?” or are they safe to consume? We do not find potassium or potassium content/amounts on many food items, so it’s difficult to find low or no potassium snack’s my senior friend can eat. Can you help? The “hickory smoked hot snack sticks” I found in his fridge look and taste ominous to me (high in sodium for sure, but I can’t find anything on potassium except that it has “potassium sorbate,” which I understand is a preservative. Thank you for your assistance!

  22. In my search for liposomal vitamin C I have found products that contain potassium sorbate which Dr. Greger considered harmful in his 2011 video above. Is there still reason to believe so?
    A manufacturer of one such product, LipoLife, has tried to calm me by referring me to an EFSA report on preservatives from 2015. It would be really great to have Dr. Greger’s opionion on this and other common preservatives.

    Link: http://lipolife.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Potassium-sorbate-article-EFSA.pdf

  23. Christian,

    your best bet is old plain pure ascorbic acid!

    According to reputable souce – Linus Pauling Institute:

    “Is there an advantage to taking liposomal, esterified, time-release, or mineral forms of ascorbic acid compared to taking plain ascorbic acid?

    There has been no proven benefit to taking any other form of vitamin C over plain ascorbic acid. Many companies claim their product has a greater bioavailability, but there is little in the scientific, peer-reviewed literature to support such claims. For more specific information about forms of vitamin C, see the Micronutrient Information Center.”

    Source: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/linuspaulinginstitute/2015/05/28/questions-about-vitamin-c/

    Besides, yes, potassium sorbate is harmful!

    Hope this helps,

    Adam P.

    1. Hi Adam

      Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately my stomach and intestines have proven too sensitive for plain acorbic acid or even calcium ascorbate. Only liposomal vitamin C works for me and I doubt not that it works because I can easily feel it kick in after 6 – 8 hours. Hard though to find a pure product without a lot of extras (preservatives, flavoring etc.). I ended up ordering some from German-Dutch ActiNovo that does not contain potassium sorbate.

      Maybe of interest. In the EFSA report (European Food Safety Authority) that I linked to earlier they speculate that potassium sorbate is dissociated into its constituents in the small intestine and they conclude that the chemical is safe. However, I object that liposomal products are a special case, and of concern, because if potassium sorbate is encapsulated (with e.g. vitamin C) in proper liposomes it will likely end up in the bloodstream undissociated.. and what safety risk would it pose then?!

      By the way, I have previously looked at the homepage of Linus Pauling Institute and I was astounded to find that despite the name they seem to negate many if not all the findings/claims of Linus Pauling regarding vitamin C. Justified of course if their views are truly based on up-to-date, good science rather than e.g. an unease with and resistance to orthomolecular medicine. I can only speculate.

      1. Hey, Christian,

        I am really sorry, but honestly, I can’t answer your question. I just don’t know – sorry :)

        But did you try to take smaller doses of ascorbic acid? 100 mg or something? With food? And why do you prefer to take supplement, why don’t you just eat in fruits and vegetables? By the way, you might want to take look at Liposomal Vitamin from Dr. Mercola, I was looking for something without potassium sorbate and found this.

        Have a nice day,

        Moderator Adam P.

  24. When using potassium sorbate (PS) in baked products (like cakes), is it necessary to add any other ingredient in order to trigger the preserving properties of the PS?
    I was told that the presence of milk in the baked product will trigger the PS.

  25. Thank you for your question. The summary of this video on potassium sorbet is that it damages the DNA of human cells and therefore has the potential to cause cancer. Therefore it appears to be best avoided. I would not advise the use of animal milks given their adverse effects on human health

  26. What about the mold in blue cheese? Eating cheese alone is no longer apetising to me though, I just
    wonder if the mold cause harmful effects too. What’s the difference between the mold and any other
    types?

    Thanks

    1. Ryo,

      that’s an interesting question.

      They are safe to eat. Dangerous molds produce toxins, usually mycotoxins or aflatoxins. But Penicillium Roqueforti and Penicillium Glaucum which are the blue molds used for cheese, they cannot produce these toxins in cheese.

      You could be allergic to them, sure.

      Another example of “safe mold” include Rhizopus Oligosporus which is used in tempeh.

      I hope I answered your question :-)

      Moderator Adam P.

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