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

Calcium Propionate

What is Calcium Propionate?

Calcium propionate is a preservative commonly used in baked goods around the world. It works to extend the shelf life of baked goods by preventing mold and ropy bread bacteria growth.

Properties of calcium propionate:

  • Works best at pH below 5.5
  • Recommended usage level is 0.1 to 0.3% dry flour weight
  • Great for preventing mold and rope bacteria
  • Chemical formula: C6H10O4 CA
  • Molecular Weight: 186.22
  • Water soluble
  • Active: propionic acid (occurs naturally in swiss cheese at 1%)1


Propionic acid and its calcium salt derivative have been established as antimicrobials for a long time. As early as 1906, Watkins recognized that it was effective against ropy bacteria in bread.2 Since the 1930s, propionates have been used to preserve bread in the United States.

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


Calcium propionate is most active in the pH range below 5.5. At a higher pH, the necessary amount of propionate to preserve a food item can increase 500 fold. Therefore, salts of benzoic or sorbic acid are recommended for use at higher pH levels.

Calcium propionate is the ideal preservative for bread and rolls because it has little effect on yeast and does not interfere with its fermentation. In cakes, however, the high use level and available calcium interferes with the leavening action and is therefore not a good preservative.4

In contrast, sodium propionate will delay fermentation of yeast and is not recommended  for use in breads or rolls, but it is prefered for the preservation of cakes.4

Calcium propionate is effective at inhibiting growth of molds and rope bacteria when concentration is adequate to block cell metabolism. If baked good is produced in a contaminated environment without effective current good manufacturing practices, the dose may not be effective in inhibiting mold growth.


21 grams of calcium are present in 100 grams of calcium propionate.5

Commercial Production

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


Calcium propionate is commonly used as a mold inhibitor in pre-packed and sliced bread. It is added during the dough production phase and concentration is dependent on the item and desired shelf life. Typically, in the United States, use level is 0.1-0.3% based on the relative weight of the flour.2

FDA Regulations

In the United States, calcium propionate is affirmed as a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) food substance under the following conditions:

  • It is used as an antimicrobial agent
  • It is used in accordance with current good manufacturing practices and use does not exceed what is needed for desired effect
  • It is used in baked goods, cheeses, confections, frostings, gelatins, puddings, fillings, jams or jellies.
  • Meets the specifications of the Food Chemical Codex (FCC) 3rd edition. (21 C.F.R. § 184.1221 2018)

The European Food Safety Authority re-evaluated calcium propionate (E-282) as a food additive in 2014 and found no safety concerns for this additive.1 Maximum permitted level (MPL) is specified in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 13333/2008 on food additives, and the panel does not have any concerns at this level or in these applications:

Category Foods Restrictions MPL or mg/Kg
07.1 Bread and rolls Only pre-packaged sliced bread and rye bread 3000
07.1 Bread and rolls Only energy reduced bread, partially baked pre-packed bread, and pre-packaged roll and pita, prepackaged polsebrod, bolle and dansk flutes 2000
07.1 Bread and rolls Only pre-packaged bread 1000


  1. “Food Additives”, Food Chemistry 2nd Edition, ed. Owen Fennema. Marcel Dekker, New York. 1985.
  2. Luck, E, Jager, M. “Propionic Acid”, Antimicrobial Food Additives. Springer, London. 1997.
  3. EFSA. “Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of propionic acid (E 280), sodium propionate (E 281), calcium propionate (E 282) and potassium propionate (E 283) as food additives. EFSA Journal.12:7:3779.. 2014.
  4. Chemical Book, Calcium propionate. 2017. Accessed 1 February 2019.
  5. Macco. Nutritional Data Calcium Propionate. 2012. Accessed 1 February 2019.