Artificial Preservatives2019-06-28T13:27:40-07:00

Baked goods like bread often contain artificial preservatives to extend the shelf life.

Artificial Preservatives

What are Artificial Preservatives?

Artificial preservatives are chemical additives that can slow down or restrict food deterioration that caused by microorganisms and oxidation reactions.1

So in the baking and food industry, they are used in baking extend to shelf-life and preserve quality characteristics during transport and commercialization.


The thre main categories of artificial preservatives are:2

  1. Antimicrobials: restrict and inhibit the growth of spoilage organisms, such as mold and rope bacteria.
  2. Antioxidants: stabilize fats and oils, as well as delay their oxidation. Also, they prevent discoloration of natural pigments.
  3. Chelating agents (sequestrants): aid in binding metals that can cause oxidation in fats and oils.


Category 1: Antimicrobials1,2,3

Relevant aspects / benefits Application Challenges
Benzoates (Potassium, calcium and sodium)

Active component: Benzoic acid

  • Benzoate salts in a solution are converted into the active form or acid.
  • Optimum pH range for microbial inhibition is 2.5–4.2.
  • Not recommended for pH above 4.2.
  • Also, not recommended in yeasted doughs.
  • Slightly effective against bacteria.
  • 0.03–0.1% in high acid fillings, fruits and jams.
  • 10% solution sprayed on the surface of baked products (cakes, muffins, pastries, bread).
  • Not compatible with clean label and natural products trends. (1)
  • Require acidic conditions to work effectively. High pH products such as Devil’s Food Cake (pH of 9.0) are not protected from mold. (2)
  • Significantly slows yeast activity and fermentation rate. (3)
Propionates (calcium – CalPro, and sodium)

Active component: Propionic acid

  • Propionate salts in solution are converted into the active form, acid.
  • Effective up to pH 6.0.
  • Very effective against mold.
  • Gentle on yeast cells.
  • 0.1–0.3%.
  • Added directly to yeast-leavened bakery formulations such as white pan bread, buns, variety bread, or frozen dough.
  • (1) (2)
  • Excessive amounts create strong, soapy flavors and off-odors.
Sorbate (Potassium)

Active component: Sorbic acid

  • Sorbate salts in a solution are converted into the active form, acid.
  • 3–4 times more effective than propionates against mold spores and rope bacteria.
  • Works effectively at pH as high as 6.5.
  • Not recommended for yeasted doughs.
  • Slightly effective against bacteria.
  • When used in dough at very low levels (20–40 ppm), sorbic acid functions as a reducing agent.
  • Pie fillings and icings.
  • 10% solution sprayed on the surface of baked products (cakes, muffins, pastries, bread).
  • (1) (2) (3)

Category 2: Antioxidants2,3

Relevant aspects / benefits Challenges
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • Prevents the enzymatic browning of fruits.
  • Quenches various forms of oxygen and free radicals reduction.
  • Acts as a synergist of alpha-tocopherol, citric acid, BHA, BHT.
  • Its oxidized form functions as a dough strengthener.
  • Readily converted to its oxidized form, dehydro ascorbic acid, in the presence of oxygen. Then, it looses its antioxidant capacity.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Propyl gallate (PG)

Tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ)

  • Commercialized as white or slightly yellow fine crystals.
  • Used in margarine, shortenings, butter and fat-rich baked goods.
  • Removes free radicals formed during autoxidation of unsaturated lipids.
  • Has antimicrobial activity as a phenolic compound.
  • May protect the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E.
  • Effective at low levels: 0.02% (formula %).
  • Not compatible with clean label and natural products trends. (1)

Category 3: Sequestrants2,3

Relevant aspects / benefits Challenges
Citric Acid

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)


  • Commercialized  as non-hygroscopic powders that are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
  • Used to control the reaction of trace metals with food components and to prevent deterioration of color and oxidation.
  • Used to improve the whipping properties of angel food cake  and meringues.
  • Used at 0.01% to increase the effectiveness of antioxidants in lard/shortening.
  • Citric acid is compatible with clean label trends.
  • EDTA and phosphates are not compatible with clean label and natural products trends. (1)

FDA regulation

Preservative Usage limit3 Status3
Benzoates 0.1% GRAS
Propionates and Sorbate The ingredient is used in baked goods at levels according to current GMP. GRAS
Vitamin C The ingredient is used in baked goods at levels according to current GMP. GRAS
BHA and BHT General use: 0.02%, based on the weight of the fat or oil. GRAS
PG Not allowed to use in combination with TBHQ.

For general use: 0.02%, alone or in combination with BHT or BHA by weight of lipid portion of food.

TBHQ Not allowed to use in combination with PG.

For general use: 0.02%, based on lipid content of food.

EDTA 60 ppm spice extracts in soluble carriers

100 ppm pecan pie filling

100 ppm in artificially colored lemon

Polyphosphates and Citric acid The ingredient is used in foods at levels according to current GMP. GRAS


  1. Tucker, G.S. Food Preservation and Biodeterioration, 2nd Edition, by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2016, pp. 1–35;193–204.
  2. Igoe, R.S. Dictionary of Food Ingredients, 5th Edition, by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 2011, pp. 3–244.
  3. Smith, J. Food Additives Data Book, 2nd Edition, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2011, pp. 2–916.


  1. Precious Oduro July 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    What’s the best I can use for cupcakes?

  2. Lin Carson, PhD
    Lin Carson, PhD July 28, 2016 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    This is what Robert Mason recommends: The cupcake itself will probably need a good pH of around 5.5 or less (my general recommendation is as low as possible). This will really depend on the type of cake as something like a lemon can go pretty low while a nice devil’s food will be have to be pretty high. Then I would probably recommend combination of cal pro and sorbic acid/sorbate.

    Benzoates and sorbates are pretty common for the frosting

    In both the cupcake and the frosting, controlling the water activity level (likely with corn syrup or even glycerin) will be necessary for maximum shelf life, especially with the higher sugar and water contents associated with cupcakes. Contact Robert at [email protected] to increase your shelf life.

  3. Nigel January 30, 2017 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    What would be the best to use for a rice crispy treat?

  4. Emilia October 18, 2017 at 2:32 am - Reply

    Comment…which is best used for cakes?

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck October 19, 2017 at 10:46 am - Reply

      Hi Emilia, we suggest you read Dr. Carson’s reply on 7/28/16 about cupcakes. It will be the same for cakes.

  5. wendy January 17, 2018 at 6:55 am - Reply

    what are the most common preservatives found in croissants?

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck January 26, 2018 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Depends on your croissant’ shelf life. Our Friends from J&K Ingredients are great at providing solutions for this type of conundrums.

  6. Princess May 6, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    What is the best used for dougnut

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck May 21, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

      We recommend you take a look at our Specialty Page, Donut. And that you also attend one of our Academy Classes.

  7. yvette May 8, 2018 at 4:21 am - Reply

    what type preservative can be used for in yeast rised fried dougnut for shelve life extension and mould inhibitor without changing the taste of the product. how long would it last on a shelve?

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck May 21, 2018 at 10:46 am - Reply

      We highly recommend you attend our Academy Classes where questions like this are covered.

  8. Kazi September 9, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    Please can you recommend me the chemical Preservative for cake three to four month shelf life ?

  9. Saurabh dabhole November 15, 2018 at 10:22 am - Reply

    What to use in coconut loaf cake

    • Ana Rinck
      Ana Rinck November 16, 2018 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      That depends if you are looking for an antimicrobial, antioxidant or something that helps your shelf life.

  10. Sini March 6, 2019 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Which is the best presevative for carrot pudding cake ?and plz tell the measurement of presevative for 1 kg

Leave A Comment

six − one =