Sorbic Acid Sorbates

Sorbic acid occurs naturally in the berries of the mountain ash tree (rowanberry) (24). As with other organic acids, the antimicrobial activity of sorbic acid is greatest when the compound is in the undissociated state. With a pKa of 4.75, activity is greatest at a pH less than 6.0 to 6.5.

Sorbates are probably the most well characterized of all food antimicrobials as to their spectrum of action and inhibit bacteria, yeasts, and molds at concentrations of 0.05 to 0.3% (24). Food-related yeasts and molds inhibited by sorbates include Byssochlamys, Candida, Saccharomyces, and Zygosaccharomyces and Aspergillus, Fusarium, Geo-trichum, and Penicillium, respectively (24). Sorbates inhibit the growth of yeasts and molds in microbiological media, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and vegetable fermentations, sauces, and meats. Sorbates inhibit growth and mycotoxin production by Aspergillus flavus, A. parasiticus, Byssochlamys nivea, Penicillium expansum, and P. patu-lum (24). Some of the genera of bacteria inhibited by sorbate include Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, Bacillus, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Escherichia, Lactobacillus,Listeria, Pseudomonas, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Vibrio, and Yersinia (24).

A number of Penicillium, Saccharomyces, and Zygosaccharomyces species can grow in the presence of and degrade potassium sorbate (24). Sorbates may be degraded through a decarboxylation reaction resulting in the formation of 1,3-pentadiene, a compound having a kerosenelike or hydrocarbon-like odor.

Sorbate inhibits the growth of many pathogenic bacteria in foods, including Salmonella and S. aureus in sausage; S. aureus in bacon; Vibrio parahaemolyticus in seafood; Salmonella, S. aureus, and E. coli in poultry; Yersinia enterocolitica in pork; and Salmonella typhimurium in milk and cheese (24,25). In addition, the compound inhibits growth of the spoilage bacteria, Pseudomonas putrefa-ciens and P. fluorescens, histamine production by Proteus morgani and K. pneumoniae and listeriolysin O production by L. monocytogenes (24,26). Sorbates are effective anti-clostridial agents in cured meats and other meat and seafood products. The compound prevents spores of C. botu-linum from germinating and forming toxin in beef, pork, poultry, and soy protein frankfurters and emulsions and bacon (24).

Sorbate is applied to foods by direct addition, dipping, spraying, dusting, or incorporation into packaging. Baked goods, icing, fruit, and cream fillings can be protected from yeast and molds through the use of 0.05 to 0.10% potassium sorbate applied either as a spray after baking or by direct addition (24). Sorbates may be used in or on beverages, jams, jellies, preserves, margarine, chocolate syrup, salads, dried fruits, dry sausages, salted and smoked fish, cheeses, and in various lactic acid fermentations (24).

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