E280 Propionic Acid: The Bread Preservative in Small Animal Food (updated)

What is E280/ Propionic Acid ?

“Propionic Acid (from the Greek words protos, meaning “first”, and pion, meaning “fat”; also known as propanoic acid) is a naturally occurring carboxylic acid with chemical formula CH3CH2COOH.” [Wikipedia]


“Colorless, oily liquid with a pungent, disagreeable, rancid odor. [Note: A solid below 5°F.]” [NIOSH PocketBook]

Where is it used?

Propionic acid inhibits the growth of mold and some bacteria. Propionic
acid is manufactured primarily for use as a preservative and anti-mold
agent in animal feed and grain.
Propionates occur naturally in small amounts in natural foods such as cheese and are also produced naturally in the human and cow gut as part of the digestion process.
Below are some of the other names that are associated to E280:
They also come in the form of

E280 Propionic acid
E281 Sodium propionate
E282 Calcium propionate
E283 Potassium propionate
-Ethanecarboxylic acid
-ethylformic acid
-Metacetonic acid
-methylacetic acid
-Propanoic acid
-Pseudoacetic acid

Why is its usage heavily regulated?

In Singapore, it is regulated heavily by AVA under Food (Amendment) Regulations 2013

Bread 3000ppm
Christmas Pudding 1000ppm
Dessert (Fruitbased,Milk,Cream) 300ppm
Fillings &Toppings (Fruitbased,Veg) 1000ppm
Flour confectionery 1000ppm

In tiny amounts they are not harmful but, as with other additives, the effects are dose related. Very few consumers will be affected immediately by the amount of propionate preservative in one slice of bread but effects are cumulative, and can build up slowly over days or weeks, varying with the dose. This makes identification of the cause of symptoms extremely difficult.

It is well known that very high levels of propionic acid are neurotoxic, due to their effects in children with propionic acidemia. This is a metabolic disease in which propionates cannot be broken down in the body due to an inborn enzyme deficiency, resulting in an accumulation of propionate in the blood. Complications can include learning disabilities, seizures, arrhythmia, gastrointestinal symptoms and recurrent infections and many others (Pena and Burton 2012, Schreiber et al 2012, Wajner and Goodman 2011).

Brazilian propionic academia researchers have produced similar effects – including learning disabilities due to ‘chemically-induced propionic acidemia’ (Brusque et al 1999) – in young rats by giving them propionic acid and have documented numerous effects of propionic acid (Pettenuzzo et al 2002, Trindade et al 2002, Fontella et al 2000, Brusque et al 1999, Wyse et al 1998) including an immunosuppression effect that could lead to low resistance to infection, accounting for the recurrent infections typical of propionic academia patients (Wajner et al 1999).

Canadian autism researchers have shown that higher than normal levels of propionic acid can accumulate in the circulating blood, cross the gut-blood and blood-brain barriers and can concentrate inside the cells where they may have adverse effects on brain development and function. In recent studies, brief infusions of propionic acid in rats produced short bouts of behavioral (hyperactivity, perserveration, object fixation, social impairments) and other effects such as seizures, similar to those seen in Autistic Spectrum Disorders (Thomas et al 2012, Ossenkopp et al 2012, McFabe et al 2011, Thomas et al 2010, Shutlz et al 2009, Shultz et al 2008, McFabe et al 2007).

Australian food intolerance researchers were the first to report that propionate preservatives can contribute to hyperactivity in children (Swain et al). My own research in an Australian medical journal found that propionate preservatives can cause irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance (difficulty settling to sleep and/or frequent night waking) in some children (Dengate and Ruben 2002).

What are other reported symptoms?

• migraine and headaches
•gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea
• urinary urgency, bedwetting
• eczema and other itchy skin rashes
• nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose)
• depression, unexplained tiredness, foggy brain
• speech delay, impairment of memory and concentration
• tachycardia (fast heart beat)
• arrhythmia
• seizures
• growing pains
• loud voice (no volume control)
• adult acne


We understood that many additives and preservatives were added to animal food to keep them fresh for a long time – primarily to minimise mold, fungus and prevent weevils. But, if you find your small animals such as chinchilla, guinea pig or rabbits having seizures, try to avoid such products. Its effect is cummulative and builds up slowly over a period of time. Seeing those reports makes me want to stop eating bread.

E280 Propionic Acid

Updated new names 9-15-2016


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