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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Review: putative mutagens and carcinogens in foods. II: sorbate and sorbate-nitrite interactions.

Sorbic acid and potassium sorbate are widely used Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) food additives with an extremely high (25 mg/kg) acceptable daily intake level. Some children between the ages of 6-24 months may actually ingest this amount. While presently not permitted to be added directly to meat and poultry products in the US, potassium sorbate has been proposed as a preservative for bacon, as an additive in conjunction with nitrite and ascorbate or erythorbate. Sorbate and nitrite form several species of direct-acting mutagens and genotoxic agents when present together at pH's mimicking gastric conditions. Two of the mutagens have been identified as ethylnitrolic acid and 1,4-dinitro-2-methylpyrrole. Mutagen formation is blocked by ascorbate at low pH. Ascorbate at eightfold molar excess leads to inactivation of 1,4-dinitro-2-methylpyrrole near neutral pH but does not destroy the mutagenic nitro compound at low pHs. The combination of sorbate with nitrite represents a potential health risk in the absence of adequate inactivating levels of ascorbate (vitamin C).[1]


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