Sodium erythorbate (C6H7NaO6) is a food additive used predominantly in meats, poultry, and soft drinks. Chemically, it is the sodium salt of erythorbic acid. When used in processed meat such as hot dogs and beef sticks, it increases the rate at which nitrite reduces to nitric oxide, thus facilitating a faster cure and retaining the pink coloring. As an antioxidant structurally related to vitamin C, it helps improve flavor stability and prevents the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. When used as a food additive, its E number is E316.
Sodium erythorbate is produced from sugars derived from different sources, such as beets, sugarcane, and corn. An urban myth claims that sodium erythorbate is made from ground earthworms; however, there is no truth to the myth. It is thought that the origin of the legend comes from the similarity of the chemical name to the words earthworm and bait.