Factory-produced foods contain various added chemicals to enhance flavor, prevent microbrial growth or preserve freshness. Sodium erythorbate is just one of many additives used in the food manufacturing industry. It's a new type of additive and is a synthetic variation of ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C.
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Sodium erythorbate is considered safe, but as with all additives, it's possible to have a sensitivity to it and experience side effects.
Use in Food Industry
In food processing, sodium erythorbate is used to keep a wide variety of foods fresh -- from meats to canned fruits and vegetables, as well as wines, jams and soft drinks. When used in pickled products, it prevents cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines from forming. Sodium erythorbate has antioxidant properties that are more potent than ascorbic acid. It inhibits the oxidation of food, which helps keep the food fresh.
General Side Effects
If you're sensitive to sodium erythorbate, you may experience side effects like headaches, dizziness, fatigue, lethargy and body flushing. There are no reports of hospitalization from these side effects. If you experience these side effects and you suspect it's related to consuming foods with sodium erythorbate, however, consult your doctor. Other food substances may cause similar effects if you're sensitive, so it may be a good idea to keep a food diary to help your doctor determine the cause.
Red Blood Abnormality
Sodium erythorbate may cause hemolysis, according to the food additive supplier Foodchem International Corp. Hemolysis occurs when red blood cells are destroyed before their natural life cycle. Normally red blood cells remain in circulation for up to 120 days. In hemolysis, red blood cells are broken down too soon. When this happens, it may lead to a reduced red blood count, a condition known as hemolytic anemia. Immune reactions and chemicals like toxins, medications and poisons are among the causes of hemolysis.
Kidney Stone Risk
In susceptible people, regular consumption of sodium erythorbate-containing food may cause a buildup of acidic substances that increase the risk of kidney stones, according to the "Handbook of Food Additives" by Michael Ash. It may also trigger symptoms in people with gout, a condition in which uric acid builds up in the joints. If you have a history of kidney stones, or gout, you may need to avoid this additive. Drinking plenty of water helps dilute acidic substances and decrease the risk of attacks.
- FoodChem International Corp.: Sodium Erythorbate Side Effects
- MedlinePlus: Hemolysis
- Sidley Chemical: Sodium Erythorbate
- Handbook of Food Additives; Michael Ash et al.