Calcium propionate is used as a preservative in bread and other baked goods and can be mixed with propionic acid and sodium propionate. Calcium propionate helps keep these baked goods fresh by preventing the growth of mold and bacteria that can cause them to spoil. Calcium propionate also occurs naturally in butter and some types of cheese.
Sometimes consumers have questions about the safety of calcium propionate. We understand that food additives can sound scary, and many of us worry about the idea of preservatives used as ingredients in the foods we eat. But think about it this way: Would you like a chance to eat bread infected with bacteria or mold? Probably not. Preservatives like Calcium Propionate are very important to keep healthy food safe.
Safety Study of Calcium Propionate
Calcium propionate has been extensively studied for its potential toxicity and any possibility that it may cause cancer. All laboratory tests were negative except for two studies. One study involved injecting large amounts of calcium propionate into the yolk sack of chicken embryos, which has no effect on humans. Another study involving young vitamin B12-deficient rats also confirmed the problem with weight loss.
The findings suggest that large amounts of calcium propionate may have contributed to a decrease in growth rate during the study period. However, the amount used was many times greater than that found in a standard diet—plus, it wasn’t known how much vitamin B-12 deficiency was involved in these results.
In other laboratory studies, rats fed large amounts of calcium propionate (and similar compounds) for extended periods of time did not appear to have any adverse effects. Therefore, the accumulation of research evidence shows that calcium propionate is non-toxic and safe to use in the usual amounts currently used by food manufacturers.
The preponderance of the research evidence led the US FDA GRAS Substance Selection Committee to conclude:
“There is no evidence in the available data for propionic acid, calcium propionate, and sodium propionate to demonstrate or suggest that there are reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when used at levels now or that might reasonably be expected in the future.”