Sodium benzoate has the chemical formula NaC7H5O2; it is a widely used food preservative, with an E number of E211. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water. It can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid. Benzoic acid occurs naturally at low levels in cranberries, prunes, greengage plums, cinnamon, ripe cloves, and apples.
Sodium benzoate is a preservative. As a food additive, sodium benzoate has the E number E211. It is bacteriostatic and fungistatic under acidic conditions. It is most widely used in acidic foods such as salad dressings (vinegar), carbonated drinks (carbonic acid), jams and fruit juices (citric acid), pickles (vinegar), and condiments. It is also used as a preservative in medicines and cosmetics.Concentration as a food preservative is limited by the FDA in the U.S. to 0.1% by weight.
In combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may form benzene, a known carcinogen. Heat, light and shelf life can increase the rate at which benzene is formed.