Potassium sorbate (in Europe: E202, or 'Kaliumsorbat' in German) spoils a lot of the packaged food for me – I clearly smell and taste it. I can also clearly smell it e.g. in a medicinal cream I bought at the pharmacy. The smell/taste is very specific, a kind of organic 'sweetish-sour', remotely reminding me of wax when it is stronger, and I don't really like it. The taste also doesn't disappear after cooking as I just experienced with a pack of fresh potato dumpling dough from the supermarket (Germany) – after kneading the dough I could still smell the additive in my hand palms for a few hours.

All the online info sources suggest that potassium sorbate wouldn't impart its own taste to the food, but the opposite is the case in my experience. Now I wonder if it's possible that not everyone can smell/taste it, e.g., for genetic reasons? Otherwise the Internet should be full of comments to this effect.

  • What is your feeling to this en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorbus_domestica perhaps you can identify if it is really sorbic ac. / sorbate that you dislike so much. However it is also possible that one likes the fruits but not the molecule itself. I wonder how much sorbate is in the item you mention. I think it might be something that is smelled and tasted by many but perhaps goes under a generic "already made" or "industrial" food term. Frozen pizza for instance gave me a "waxy-sweet-sour" feeling that I convey saying they are ok as a snack or in emergency, not too bad but taste artificial.
    – Alchimista
    Feb 5, 2019 at 10:45
  • Would you also describe the odor as "fruity" or "acetone-like?"
    – Jan
    Jun 11, 2019 at 12:08

2 Answers 2


Exercise.com and Moonsharvest.com say potassium sorbate can have a sweet odor.

According to Wikipedia, some yeasts can change potassium sorbate into pentadiene, which has a typical odor of kerosene or petroleum.


I also can smell and taste this additive, which I would describe as smelling and tasting ‘sour’. It’s not a thing you want your bread goods to taste like, so for me as well it ruins a lot of packaged goods like flatbreads and pittas and crumpets. Today I smelled it in a tub of hummmus, and sure enough, it was labelled on the ingredients. Hence me finding this thread today.

As this thread is so quiet, and I’ve never met anyone who also reels back in disgust when they open a packet, I can only assume we are quite rare in having this sensitivity to it!

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