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Study: Radish Root Ferment Contains Petrochemicals

Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, aka or Leucidal Liquid, has been a go-to preservative in recent years for companies looking for a safer, more natural alternative. 

However, a recent study has found that the reportedly natural preservative is laced with a synthetic disinfectant called didecyldimethylammonium chloride. (Read the study in its entirety here.)

The researchers had been curious as to how the leuconostoc preservative actually worked to prevent bacterial growth, initially thinking that it contained natural peptides and acids. While they did find salicylic acid was a main constituent in radish root ferment filtrate, they found no peptides, and instead were suprised to find the synthetic didecyldimethylammonium chloride. 

Once they were able to extract the two compounds from a sample of the radish root ferment filtrate, they did carbon dating on them and found at they were clearly from synthetic, petroleum-based sources, not from plants: 

To determine the origin of the salicylic acid and didecyldimethylammonium salts we isolated from LRRFF, samples were submitted for carbon dating. On the basis of the amount of 14C present, these compounds were dated to 52 000 ± 2 900 and 21 140 ± 100 years old, respectively. This clearly indicates that the salicylic acid and the didecyldimethylammonium chloride are largely derived from petroleum-based precursors and that neither is the product of a recent fermentation of plant material.

They also tried making a radish ferment of their own, and found that no didecyldimethylammonium chloride is present naturally in radishes or their fermentation products. 

Salicylic acid is known to be a weak estrogen mimicker, which I've written about here

The study's researchers say that didecyldimethylammonium chloride has "toxicity to aquatic organisms and can also affect human health. They are known to enhance permeability of salicylic acid through animal skin, and can cause skin allergenic effects, asthma, and lung problems, as well as eye irritation." 

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in March 2015; the manufacturer that holds the patent of the preservative does not appear to have made any public statements regarding this information. This is the first and only study on the topic. 

Here is a list of products that currently use Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate according to EWG.

Reader Comments (13)

Totally not scientific but never got a good vibe from that one! Thank you for the update. Always fascinating.

Thu, August 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSusan M Parker

So grateful for your knowledge and research, Stephanie - and your investigative and educational work. This radish root ferment preservative reminds me of the Japanese honeysuckle extract - sounds like a perfectly natural and lovey ingredient on the label... but not so much. Thanks for uncovering this and letting people know. :)

Thu, August 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLacey @ KV Organics

Thanks for this information, Stephanie. I noticed that this is in some Badger and Lauren Brooke products, would you still recommend those brands? I really value your opinion, thanks again!

Thu, August 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thanks @Lacey and Susan Parker!

@Susan--yes, I still do recommend these brands. I don't fault them for using it, as it has been marketed as a squeaky clean alternative. Of course, as with anything always read your ingredients. :)

Thu, August 25, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Oh, no! I just ordered (last night!) one of the products on that list! At least I only ordered a small sample size. Thanks, Stephanie!! I was going to ask you if "radish root" was the same thing as "radish root ferment filtrate," but your list answered my question. This product just listed "radish root," so now I know they're both the exact same thing. Thanks again!!

Thu, August 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDiane H.

I think it is good to review all the scientific literature, but I think it is also important to help people interpret what they are reading. In many cases readers may not be trained to examine these studies critically.

This study was financed by a competitor of the manufacturer. So there is financial interest in proving that there is fault with the material. The samples were not obtained from the manufacturer, so there is no way to prove they represent actual commercial material. There is about a 300% margin of error on the analytical work. The author fails to disclose that the specifications for the material declare the salicylate levels. Yes - its a published paper, just not a very good one.

Fri, August 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDurant Scholz

Hi Stephanie -- since my last post, I've conversed with a lady I know who's much more knowledgeable than I in these matters (i.e., chemical studies, organic ingredients, and such), and I do think there's room for doubt about this single study, and the interests and methods of the testers. Perhaps it's too soon to declare radish root down and out. Nevertheless, thank you for your continuing efforts to bring ingredients information forward to the public! :-)

Fri, August 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDiane H.

I'll be continuing to update as more information becomes available. I am working on getting information from the supplier.

Sat, August 27, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

This is a response from the manufacturer of the fermented radish root in case you are interested in what they have to say.

They basically are saying that the study was ill-conceived, erroneous and irrelevant.

here are the specific details:

M15008 Leucidal Liquid does not contain any didecyldimethylammonium salts. Please find the below which may be used to highlight the attached official AMT response to this article. You can share this with whomever is concerned

The claims published by this paper eluding that the antimicrobial activity of Leucidal Liquid is not based on antimicrobial peptides but rather, salicylic acid and a didecyldimethylammonium salt (such as DDAC) are completely flawed and inaccurate. The salicylic acid isolation results were not entirely surprising and in fact, we have attested to this on multiple occasions both internally and publically. We fail to see why the presence of salicylates in Leucidal Liquid is something considered worthy of publication. We have been very clear in disclosing the salicylate content in this product and in fact list it on the specification (Phenolics, tested as salicylic acid: 18.0 – 22.0%). AMT can re-attest to the fact that the composition of Leucidal Liquid is unchanged from what is reported on its compositional breakdown and specification. This product contains natural salicylates and is the result of fermentation of radish root in the presence of Leuconostic kimchi. It is public knowledge that the product contains phenolic compounds, which are known to be a mixture of salicylates. Therefore the fact that these may appear as salicylic acid and the authors isolated it as such is simply an artifact of the chosen test method. Certain required conditions of some test methods (such as HPLC used to identify phenolics present in Leucidal Liquid) inevitably convert the present salicylate compounds into salicylic acid.

The second erroneous claim is that a didecyldimethylammonium salt is present and could be isolated from Leucidal Liquid, which is completely invalid. There are no didecyldimethylammonium salts in Leucidal Liquid, so we are not sure how or why those results were even obtained. We do, however, know that interaction between radish root and rice phytochemicals such as indole-3-carbinol and glucosinolate can be responsible for the creation of aromatic polyamines that may be detected in Leucidal Liquid. However, we can undoubtedly confirm that no didecyldimethylammonium salt, such as DDAC, is present simply based off the composition, manufacturing procedure, and FT-IR comparison alone. As can clearly be observed in the FT-IR analysis, there are distinct peak differences in absorbance and intensity between DDAC and Leucidal Liquid, specifically within the 3500 – 2500 range and 2000 – 1000 cm -1 range indicating that the compound is not present at detectable levels. Lastly, carbon dating analysis must not be taken at face value without carefully examining every component of the product being tested, because in this case the fermentation media of Leucidal Liquid is the cause of the fossil-based carbon content this paper claims to be present. The study simply did not take into consideration the effect of fermentation media on carbon distribution, which is an investigative scientific failure on their part.

Mon, August 29, 2016 | Registered CommenterErin Ely

Thanks Erin for posting the information from the manufacture. So they are saying that salicylic acid is present in this substance and that one could be affected by the effects of salicylic acid in this preservative?

Wed, December 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoll

It should be noted in the comment by Durant Scholz above that he is a principal of Active Concepts, Active Micro Technologies and Arbor Organics affiliated companies so he directly has a financial position to gain by disarming any negative information related to this preservative. It is very interesting that they test and standardize to a Sal Acid level as part of the specification and don't tout this as being the main active ingredient for antimicrobial activity. It is even more interesting that the "Peptide" that is described all over their literature is non-detected in the article yet the only response noted by Erin Ely above provided by the company focus on the Sal Acid & DDAC portions of the article.

Tue, December 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterThe Truth

Yes, Durant Scholz may work for AMT, but what does that matter? The first thing I checked on the journal article was information about who funded it, and the author of this blog post should have pointed out the funding first and foremost, as it calls the entire study into question. Once it's replicated by a non-competitor, it may have some validity. Until then, it's not much more than sensationalism.

Sun, June 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCat Harris

Any more recent updates on this subject? As I am not a chemist how do I know which study to trust as each side seems to be motivated by financial gain?

Fri, July 21, 2017 | Registered CommenterNadia Zayman

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