During the last 30 years sorbate has been tested and used widely in the preservation of various food products throughout the world. Currently it has received increased attention as a potential replacer of nitrite for botulism control in processed meat products. Previous reports, however, had suggested sorbate as a selective agent for clostridia in laboratory media. Recent developments as well as the need for safe, practical and effective food preservatives in current and future food processing have generated intense interest in preservatives such as sorbate. This paper reviews the significant developments relating to use of sorbate as a food preservative - its antimicrobial effects, applications, advantages and limitations. A summary of the current status as well as unanswered questions relevant to the mechanism(s) through which the compound exerts its antimicrobial activity also is presented.

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