Calcium propionate is most often used in baking as a bread mold inhibitor

Calcium propionate is most often used in baking as a bread mold inhibitor.

Calcium Propionate

What is Calcium Propionate?

Calcium propionate is an antimicrobial agent commonly used in bread.  It is effective in preventing mold growth and helps extend the shelf life of bread products. It’s a preferred antimicrobial because unlike cultured wheat and cultured whey, it does not contain the top 8 allergens in the US.


Calcium propionate is produced by neutralizing propionic acid with calcium hydroxide.

Chemical structure calcium propionate, a mold inhibitor used in baking.

Chemical structure of calcium propionate.


Calcium propionate suppress bacteria and mold growth on bread and cakes. It doesn’t inhibit yeast. Its addition to bread dough doesn’t interfere with yeast fermentation. Calcium ion interferes with the chemical leavening action, so it is not often used in cake.1 It is preferred to use in bread and rolls, because it can enrich the product.


Calcium propionate is added with other ingredients in the dough.2 Potassium sorbate and sorbic acid cannot be used in dough since they damage the yeast and they can only be used by spraying on the surface of products after baked.2

Calcium propionate is most effective below pH 5.5. Any lower, and the active component, propionic acid, is undissociated and becomes active. The dough pH needs to be below 5.5 and well controlled to effectively control mold.

The recommendation level of calcium propionate is 0.19-0.32% based on flour weight.3 At higher application levels, it imparts a distinct acid taste to bread.

Calcium propionate can help lower the sodium concentration in bread. When 0.3% calcium propionate is used without sodium chloride, bread was mold free for 12 days. When 0.3% is used with 1.2% sodium chloride, the bread was mold free for 13 days.4

FDA regulation

Calcium propionate is GRAS regulated by the FDA in article 21CFR184.1221 in the Code of Federal Regulations.5


  1. Deshpande, S. S., et al. “Food Acidulants.” Food Additive Toxicology, Marcel Dekker, 1994, pp. 11–88.
  2. American Institute of Baking. “Function of Ingredients in Bread Production.” Baking Science and Technology.
  3. Katsinis, George, et al. “Synergistic effect of chemical preservatives with ethanol on the microbial shelf life of bread by factorial design.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology, vol. 43, no. 2, 2008, pp. 208–215., doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2006.01386.x.
  4. Belz, Markus C. E., et al. “The effect of sourdough and calcium propionate on the microbial shelf-Life of salt reduced bread.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, vol. 96, no. 2, Sept. 2012, pp. 493–501., doi:10.1007/s00253-012-4052-x.
  5. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “21CFR184.1221 – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.”, 14 Aug. 2017,