Potassium Benzoate Sure, it sounds weird. But is it?

Created by Kali Gibson

Wait, so what is it exactly?compound.jpg

Potassium benzoate is a chemical compound composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and potassium that is also known as the potassium salt of benzoic acid. It is soluble in both water and alcohol though it is not soluble in any sort of ether. It occurs naturally in some plants though more often than not it is manufactured in factories "by the reaction of toluene with oxygen at temperatures around 200 C in the presence of cobalt and manganese salts as catalysts" (4). It looks like a white crystalene powder and serves as a preservative to protect against air, fungi, mold, or yeast (3).

That's weird, i'm sure I've never used or eaten any of that. Right?
Wrong. It's more than likely that you have eaten this odd sounding chemical compound because it is a great preservative and can be subsitituted for sodium benzoate in order to produce lower sodium foods. It's in the diet coke my mom is drinking, the cherry jelly I put on my toast this morning, the apple cider I plan to drink once I'm done here, and the pie filling I plan to use tonight- just to give you an idea of how many foods it is in. Potassium benzoate can be found in many sodas, fruit juices, medicines, and even cosmetics. So, if you have ever come into contact with any of these items it is more than likely you have used or eaten this compound (1). On a different note, potassium benzoate is also used as the whistle in certain fireworks. It has a slighty tangy taste when added to food but that can be canceled out with sweeteners or other preservatives that have sweet flavors (2).

What does it do to my food, is it okay to eat?

Now, I'm sure you want to know if it's dangerous to eat now that you've realized just how many things it is in, right? Potassium benzoate is not particularly harmful to the human body so long as you do not inhale the actual compound or, for one reason or another, rub it into your skin or eyes. So, if you happen to find a pile of the white crystalene powder lying around don't sniff it or let it come in contact with your skin for an extended period of time. This can cause irritation and redness that can be uncomfortable (4). Potassium benzoate, as previously mentioned, is a preservative that helps to prevent the growth of mold, fungi, and other microorganisms. It is a great substitute for sodium benzoate to create lower sodium foods becuase the chemical make up of both coumpounds is exactly the same aside from the potassium and sodium (3).

So chemistry wise, why do they call it that?

Potassium benzoate is named this becuase, just like most other chemical compounds, that is what it is made up of. Potassium, as is, straight from the periodic table and another compound called benzoate. What is benzoate you ask? Benzoate is a simple coupound composed of only benzene and carboxylic acid. To give a reference, the hexagonal structure is benzene and the leg that splits into two is the carboxylic acid where the purple atom is potassium. While we're on the subject of chemistry, potassium and sodium are so interchangeable becuase they come from the same column on the periodic table. This means that they have both similar properties and the same charge. All in all, potassium benzoate has a molecular formula as follows: C7H5KO2. Now, if this sounds like gibberish all that means is potassium benzoate has 7 carbon atoms, 5 hydrogen atoms, 1 potassium atom, and 2 oxygen atoms. That's not so scary, now is it?

Works Cited1. Brannegan, Meg. "What foods contain potassium benzoate?". Live Strong Foundation. Livestrong.Com. October 6 2010. November 7 2010.<http://www.livestrong.com/article/271869-what-foods-contain-potassium-benzoate>2. "Chemical Food Preservatives: Benzoate and Sorbate". Cornell University. New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. 1998. 5 November 2010. <http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/necfe/pubs/pdf/Venture/venture2_chemical.html>3. "Potassium Benzoate". Chem Online. Chem-Online.Org. 5 November 2010. <http://www.chem-online.org/food-ingredient/potassium-benzoate.htm>4. "Potassium Benzoate". Chemical Land 21. Chemicalland21.Com. 5 November 2010. <http://www.chemicalland21.com/lifescience/foco/POTASSIUM%20BENZOATE.htm>Written by Kali GibsonLast edited November 7th 2010