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Food Safety Focus (33rd Issue, April 2009) – Food Incident Highlight

Benzoic Acid in Milk

Recently, a journal article about a study on benzoic acid levels in milk in Mainland China revealed that low levels of benzoic acid were present in some milk and milk products, which sparked discussions on its safety in these products and whether it had been purposely added.

Benzoic acid is widely used in food products as a preservative both locally and internationally. It is most effective in acidic foods and is less effective in alkaline foods, such as dairy products. Its normal use is unlikely to cause adverse health effects, except for some allergic people who are sensitive to this food additive. However, according to the Preservatives in Food Regulations, benzoic acid is not a permitted preservative in milk and milk beverages in Hong Kong .

Low levels of benzoic acids occur naturally in milk and milk products. Generally, normal consumption of food containing low levels of benzoic acids will not pose adverse health effects. Therefore, there is no need of undue concern over the presence of naturally occurring benzoic acids in milk and milk products.