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What is potassium sorbate?

Potassium sorbate is a synthetic compound that is used for a variety of commercial and domestic uses, for example in the baking industry as an alternative to yeast. In addition it is also used in other industries like dried meat, cheese, apple cider and other products. The primary use of potassium sorbate is to increase the shelf life of various commercial products without causing any alteration in the taste, smell or color of the food. It is generally preferred over products like sulphur (since metabolism of sulphur produces obnoxious gas sulphur dioxide that may produce an undesirable taste sensation or burping). Besides, addition of potassium sorbate also aids digestion. However, its possible side effects cannot be neglected.

Potassium sorbate uses
Potassium sorbate is generally well tolerated by individuals of all age group and has been rated as one of the safest preservatives according to the recommendation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Among most of the popular uses of potassium sorbate, a few are
1. Food preserving
It is widely used as a chemical preservative. This property is attributed to its slightly acidic nature that prevents the growth of microorganisms and thus prolongs the shelf life. It is widely used in the packaging of canned fruits, vegetables, dairy products.
2. Wine making
Potassium sorbate is used as a finalizing preservative to retain the flavor and taste of the wine after the completion of final distillation and fermentation processes. This is because, wine is produced by fermentation of fruits (that are high in sugars) by yeast; however, even when the final taste is achieved, there is still yeast and some sugar left. Without potassium sorbate, the fermentation process may continue; thereby changing the taster of wine.
3. Personal care items
Enriched hair care and skin care products are always at risk of getting contaminated by the growth of fungi and molds; however, if chemical agents like potassium sorbate are added to the mixture, the fermentation process can be easily controlled and personal care products can be used for a longer period of time.
4. Other commercial uses
Potassium sorbate is also used for a variety of industrial processes like in pain industry, rubber and plastic industry and other commercial and synthetic manufacturing units.

Potassium Sorbate Side Effects
Is Potassium Sorbate bad for your health?
Generally, preservatives like potassium sorbate are approved by FDA after extensive testing and are generally safe; however, prolonged use of any chemical product increases the risk of certain complications due to chemicals and free radicals produced as a result of biological reactions. Most common long term side effects that are observed with prolonged use of potassium sorbate are: Nausea, vomiting and gastric upset;
Risk of allergic reactions in situations when the products containing potassium sorbate are used for skincare products;
Some people may develop extreme reactions and irritation when potassium sorbate comes in contact with skin, hair or other parts of biological membranes.
Prolonged dietary intake of potassium sorbate in the form of preservatives (incorporated in canned foods) can lead to nutritional deficiencies by impairing the absorption of nutrients from the food.

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