Adverse Health Effects of Potassium Sorbate

Potassium sorbate is a food preservative that helps prevent food spoilage from bacteria, fungi, molds and yeast, as described in the United Stated Food and Drug Administration. Potassium sorbate delays changes in color, flavor, texture and rancidity of food items, making them last longer. Potassium sorbate is commonly used in fruit sauces, beverages, baked goods, cured meats, oil dressings, cheese, yogurt, cereals, snack foods, fruits and vegetables. This preservative can also be used in personal care products, home care products and dietary supplements. Potassium sorbate has several adverse health effects.

Hypersensitivity Reactions

Food additives such as dyes, thickeners and preservatives may cause an allergic or intolerance reaction. As a preservative, potassium sorbate is regarded as safe and non-toxic, prolonged use most especially in large amounts can potentially lead to allergies. Hypersensitivity reactions occur as an exaggerated response of the body's immune system against harmless substances triggered allergy producing substances. Allergic symptoms such as itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, skin as well as nasal congestion, runny nose and abdominal pain usually begin within 2 hours after coming in contact with the allergen. Patients allergic to potassium sorbate must avoid the substance to prevent hypersensitivity reactions.


Migraine, a common type of headache, is one of the possible adverse health effects of potassium sorbate. Certain foods and food preservatives such as fermented items, baked goods, dairy products, MSG or monosodium glutamate, wines and processed meats may trigger migraine in some people. Migraine is a type of headache accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. Unlike headaches, patients who get migraines have warning symptoms, known as aura. These signs are usually visual disturbances alerting the person of the impending discomfort. Avoiding triggers or precipitating factors is an effective way of preventing migraines.


Potassium sorbate is composed of potassium hydroxide, an inorganic compound as well as sorbic acid, a natural organic compound. Higher than normal levels of potassium in the blood leads to hyperkalemia, as mentioned by Medline Plus. Hyperkalemia happens when the level of potassium in the bloodstream is higher than normal, due to the excess release of potassium from the cells or the increase in total body potassium through ingesting too much of the electrolyte. Potassium may come from sources like food, food additives, medications, dietary supplements.

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