Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Potassium Benzoate Bad For You?

Also Known As: the potassium salt of benzoic acid



Short answer

Potassium benzoate is one of the worst additives used in food and has some major negative health implications. It is important to limit your consumption of this additive.



Long answer

While potassium benzoate (not to be confused with sodium benzoate) is generally recognized as safe and approved for use in foods in many countries for its ability to prevent mold, it also has some of the worst health effects. These effects can include hyperactivity, dizziness, insomnia, DNA damage, oh and it is potentially carcinogenic.

DNA damage sounds pretty serious, and that’s because – it is. These effects can lead to the progression of degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Hyperactivity can be seen with the combination of this preservative and specific artificial colors. While artificial coloring can cause this symptom alone, the combination increases the chances of this happening, especially if you already have ADHD.

When combined with vitamin C, potassium benzoate can form benzene, a known carcinogen. Vitamin C is a necessary part of our diet and is found in many fruit and vegetables. Because of the presence of this preservative in salad dressings, sodas, and fruit juice, it is almost inevitable that this combination will occur in most people’s diets. Other factors that can affect the rate at which benzene is formed in potassium-benzoate-containing-foods include heat, light and shelf life.

This formation of benzene that occurs from potassium benzoate and ascorbic acid is the most important to note. If you eat and drink foods containing these ingredients often, you can be at risk for various benzene health consequences. Long-term exposure can cause bone marrow to not be able to produce new red blood cells properly, which can lead to anemia. The blood cell changes also affect white blood cell loss and decrease antibodies, which together means a less active and stable immune system. As an extra tidbit of information, you get further exposure to benzene from tobacco smoke, gasoline fumes, glue, paint, furniture waxes, and detergent.

Fun fact- Outside of its use in foods, it is also the substance responsible for the whistling sound you here in fireworks.

Possible short-term side effects

  • dizziness
  • insomnia
  • hyperactivity

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • anemia
  • decreased immunity

Commonly found in

  • soda
  • fruit juice
  • pickles
  • jam/jelly
  • salad dressing


  • prevents mold growth in food

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 07-16-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 07-16-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Random Page

Check These Out!