Sorbic acid, or 2,4-hexadienoic acid, is a natural organic compound used as a food preservative. It has the chemical formula C6H8O2. It was first isolated from the unripe berries of the Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), hence its name.
Sorbic acid and its mineral salts, such as sodium sorbate, potassium sorbate and calcium sorbate, are antimicrobial agents often used as preservatives in food and drinks to prevent the growth of mold, yeast and fungi. In general the salts are preferred over the acid form because they are more soluble in water. The optimal pH for the antimicrobial activity is below pH 6.5 and sorbates are generally used at concentrations of 0.025% to 0.10%. Adding sorbate salts to food will however raise the pH of the food slightly so the pH may need to be adjusted to assure safety.
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Some molds (notably some Trichoderma and Penicillium strains) and yeasts are able to detoxify sorbates by decarboxylation, producing trans-1,3-pentadiene. The pentadiene manifests as a typical odor of kerosene or petroleum. Other detoxification reactions include reduction to 4-hexenol and 4-hexenoic acid. 
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