Benzoic Acid

What is it?

Benzoic Acid is found naturally in many foods such as apples, apricots, snap beans, cranberries and cinnamon leaf/bark.  Its name comes from gum benzoin which was a long-time source of the material, however today it is most often commercially available in synthetic forms processed from toluene as a product/byproduct of petrochemical processing.   

What does it do?

Benzoic acid is used as a pH adjuster and food preservative.  In Tom’s products, it serves to inhibit the growth of mold and also helps prevent the growth of microbes in our products to keep them safe for our consumers. Benzoic acid functions by changing the internal pH of microorganisms to an acidic state that is incompatible with their growth and survival.

How is it made?

Our Stewardship Model guides us to select ingredients which have been processed in a manner that supports our philosophy of human and environmental health.

Benzoic acid is typically synthetic and is produced commercially by partial oxidation of toluene from petrochemical processing.

The benzoic acid used by Tom’s of Maine is naturally derived from either apples or cinnamon leaf/bark.

In both cases, benzoic acid is naturally present in these source materials and can be extracted, concentrated and purified.

What are the alternatives?

As mentioned above, benzoic acid is readily available in a synthetic form, but at Tom's of Maine we use naturally derived  benzoic acid as it is the best fit with our Stewardship Model. Other commonly used synthetic preservatives include potassium sorbate, imidazolidinyl urea, and DMDM hydantoin, among others.

Is this the right option for me?

The Food and Drug Administration includes benzoic acid, regardless of method of production, on its list of direct food substances affirmed as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).1

Tom’s of Maine recognizes that no two people are alike, and even with naturally derived ingredients, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction that is unique to them. As with any product, be sure to discontinue use if you experience discomfort or other indications that the product may not be appropriate for your individual body chemistry.

21 CFR 184.1021