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Sorbic Acid is metabolized similar to other fatty acids such as caproic acid and can thus serve as source of energy. In the presence of adequate metabolizable carbohydrates the end-products are energy, carbon-dioxide and water. Similar to common fatty acids, the metabolic breakdown of sorbate includes activation by linkage coenzyme A, hydration by crotonase to a ß-hydroxy acid, dehydration to a ß-keto acid, and cleavage by ß-keto-thiolase. The first reaction step (i.e., α, ß-dehydrogenation) of ß-oxidation is omitted because Sorbic Acid already has an α, ß-double bond. Thus, Sorbic Acid is an intermediate in the metabolism of caproic acid and follows its pathway of degradation in the animal and human body. When metabolizable carbohydrates are not present, acetoacetone and acetone are also produced. In metabolism studies using [1-14C] Sorbic Acid in the rat, Sorbic Acid was almost entirely absorbed from the intestine and about 85% of the total amount was oxidized in a period of a few hours. The half-life depended on the initial dosage and was in the range of 40 to 110 minutes. 85% of the initial Sorbic Acid [14C] was metabolized and exhaled as carbon dioxide. The rest was metabolized to physiological compounds: 3% was found in internal organs, 3% in skeletal muscle, 2% in the urine as [14C] urea and [14C] carbonate, 0.4% in the faeces, and 6.6% in other parts of the body. Studies on the metabolism of Sorbic Acid were also conducted in the mouse and yielded similar results.

From these studies it is concluded that Sorbic Acid as well as Potassium Sorbate is rapidly and completely metabolized in the animal.

The extrapolation of the metabolism of sorbic acid to potassium sorbate is considered not to be restricted in anyway, since the determination of potential toxicity is on the "sorbate" anion.