A simple summary of potassium sorbate’s origins and current use from the Healthy Beginnings website –
You can find this mild preservative in many products such as food, wine and even herbal supplements. Its main purpose is to inhibit the presence of mold, yeast, and microbes, thus giving products a longer shelf life.

Potassium Sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid, a natural organic compound isolated from the oil of the unripened rowan berry (sorbapple or mountain ash berry). The chemical structure of sorbic acid was determined in the late 19th century and chemically synthesized in 1900. Sorbic acid and its salts were not used commercially until the 1940’s when their ability to interfere with ATP metabolism in microbes, while posing no health risk when eaten by mammals, was discovered. Since the 1950’s, sorbic acid has been repeatedly tested for safety and efficacy, and today is one of the most thoroughly tested food additives in US history. Few substances have had such extensive, rigorous, and long-term testing. It is non-toxic even when taken in large quantities, and breaks down in the body into water and carbon dioxide in the Krebs Cycle. It is metabolized just like any other polyunsaturated fat. Generally used in very small amounts, it is safe, non-toxic and non-sensitizing.

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