Calcium propionate or calcium propanoate has the formula Ca(C2H5COO)2. It is the calcium salt of propanoic acid. This substance is found in either powder or crystalline form. It is soluble in water and only unsubstantially soluble in alcohol. This organic salt is formed by the reaction of propionic acid (also known as propanoic acid) with calcium hydroxide.

The synthetic version is registered with number E282, on Table 3 in the Codex General Standard for Food Additives, a document written by the FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The “E” rating means that it is accepted by the E.U. for the same utilization and definitions.

Uses

It is used in bakery products as a mold inhibitor, usually at 0.1-0.4 percent (though animal feed may contain up to 1 percent). Mold contamination is believed to be a serious problem amongst bakers and conditions generally found in baking areas are near-optimal conditions for mold’s growth.

As a food additive, it is used as a preservative in a wide range of products, including but not limited to: bread (usually freshly baked bread products avoid the addition of E282, which is why they tend to go bad more quickly), other baked goods, processed meat, whey, and some dairy products. In agriculture, it is used, amongst other things, to impede milk fever in cows and as a feed supplement.

Propanoates prevent microbes from producing the energy they need, like benzoates do. Nevertheless, unlike benzoates, propanoates do not require an acidic environment, which is why they can be found in bread and other baked goods.

Side effects of calcium propionate or E282

In a 2002 study, about the cumulative behavioral effects of this preservative, 27 children were challenged with this compound or placebo through daily bread in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial. The researchers concluded that restlessness, irritability, inattention and sleep disturbance in some children may be caused by a preservative in healthy foods consumed on a regular basis. If this food preservative is removed from the child’s diet though, these symptoms were proven to be reversible.

Another report links propionate with migraine headaches. The Bakers’s Union in the United Kingdom has banned its use in its pure form because it provokes skin rashes in bakery workers. Further, Australian food intolerance scientists were the first to report that propionate additives can contribute to hyperactivity in children. This substance should not be used during pregnancy.