Sodium Erythorbate – Side Effects, Uses, Substitute

Sodium erythorbate (SE) is the sodium salt of erythorbic acid (denoted by E number E315) and has the chemical formula C6H7NaO6. It is a new type of food additive and is a synthetic variation of ascorbic acid, better known as the synthetic form of vitamin C.

SE is a more stable product compared to sodium ascorbate (the sodium salt of ascorbic acid) and has identical antioxidant properties.

The use of SE as a food preservative has increased greatly since the FDA banned the use of sulfites as preservatives in foods that are intended to be eaten fresh (such as fruits and vegetables) because some people are allergic to sulfites.

E Number

This slightly yellow crystalline pellet or powder, which is widely used as an antioxidant, has the E number E316.


SE may be a cost-effective substitute for ascorbic acid. In addition, its antioxidant attributes are considerably stronger than vitamin C.

Is It Vegan?

It is made by fermentation of different sources, such as beets, sugar cane, and corn to meet the specifications outlined in the F.C.C. (Food Chemicals Codex). Hence, it can be consumed by vegans and vegetarians.

Note – an urban myth claims that SE is produced from ground earthworms, nevertheless, there is no truth to this myth.


It is used in hydraulic fracturing mixtures to prevent the precipitation of metal oxides (iron control). Also, foliar application of SE dust and sprays are used to control young tree decline in citrus trees and to lower ozone damage to some varieties of grapes, especially Thompson seedless grapes.

SE can also prevent the formation of nitrosamines which are carcinogen compounds that are produced from secondary amines and nitrites, that occur in the form of proteins.

Moreover, when used in processed meat, like – beef sticks, hot dogs, burritos, or hamburgers, this food additive increases the rate at which it reduces nitric oxide, hence, facilitating a faster cure and retaining the pink coloring.

It can also eradicate negative phenomena of beverages (grape wine, beer, soft drink, fruit juice, and fruit tea) and food, like – odor, discoloration, and turbidity.

As a preservative in canned foods, it maintains flavor and color and in bread, it maintains the appearance as well as it extends shelf life.

In combination with sodium nitrite E251, ES completely prevents the growth of strains of Bacillus cereus bacteria that produce the botulism toxin, one of the most lethal substances known, that can lead to respiratory failure.

Side Effects of Sodium Erythorbate

This food additive is generally safe, however, in rare cases, some people can experience:

  • hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells before their normal lifespan is up, leading to anemia);
  • body flushing;
  • generalized fatigue;
  • dizziness;
  • headaches;
  • lightheadedness.

A very serious allergic reaction to this food additive is rare. Nevertheless, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs and symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, such as – itching/swelling (particularly of the tongue/face/throat), rash, trouble breathing, or severe dizziness.

Side effects which you should report to your healthcare provider as soon as possible include:

  • stomach pain;
  • pain in the lower back;
  • redness of the skin;
  • nausea;
  • diarrhea.

Possible long-term side effects of consuming foods containing this food additive include:

  • trigger gout symptoms, especially in people with a history of gout;
  • kidney stones, particularly in people with a history of kidney stones, and the symptoms associated with them. These include blood in the urine, flank pain, and bladder and kidney infections. This effect is increased when this food additive is used together with other prescription and nonprescription medicines which can harm the kidneys.

Less than 1 percent of patients experience nervous system side effects with symptoms including faintness, dizziness, headache, and fatigue. Also, migraine headaches have been reported.

Since its effects on an unborn baby have not been well studied, pregnant women should avoid this food supplement.

SE may interact with certain drugs, especially medicines for cancer and heart disease. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking any type of supplement.

Another drawback of this food additive is the sodium content of this preparation, since long-term overconsumption of sodium may cause the body to excrete calcium in small amounts, which can lead to osteoporosis, a bone condition, prevalent especially among women and seniors.

Too much sodium in the regular diet can damage the walls of the blood vessels and predispose you to develop hypertension. Also, ingesting too much sodium can eventually lead to congestive heart failure and strokes. Additionally, as the kidneys constantly work overtime to flush out excess sodium from the body, they can develop certain diseases.

Images credit – Shutterstock & Getty

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