Is Root Beer Poisonous? 

  • By: Max S.
  • Date: September 30, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Root beer is a summertime favorite for many due to its earthy flavor and refreshing taste. However, root beer is in the same category of beverages as sodas and soft drinks, which are infamously unhealthy as they contain many harmful chemical additives

Although root beer is not poisonous or toxic, it can be extremely unhealthy to consume excessively. Root beer utilizes certain questionable ingredients in its manufacturing process, such as artificial coloring. 

Despite being traditionally used in herbal medicine, commercial root beer today does have certain harmful ingredients and high sugar content. As a result, health experts advise staying away from excessive consumption of root beer. 

If you’re curious about which gnarly ingredients are added to root beer, keep reading. We have curated a list of common health concerns regarding the poisonous nature of root beer. 

What Bad Things Are In Root Beer?

root beer extract flavoring

Commercial root beer contains many chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial sweetening, artificial coloring, and caffeinated ingredients, which are unsuitable for you. Most medical experts advise limiting your consumption of commercial root beer to steer clear of chronic health concerns. 

Root beer is made from the bark of the sassafras tree. This bark is where the root beer derives its earthy and foamy flavor from. However, in the 1960s, research showed that this bark contained cancer-causing properties. As a result, FDA banned sassafras from being included in American root beer, which led to the use of artificial flavoring.

Many traditional brewpubs still use sassafras as an ingredient despite the ingredient being illegal. So if you’re drinking traditionally brewed root beer from a small business, be extra wary of the ingredients. 

Artificial flavoring, on the contrary, is just as dangerous as the original inclusion of sassafras. This additive can induce abdominal pain, diarrhea, allergic reactions, and vomiting. 

Artificial sweetening is used in specific root beer variants as well. This can adversely affect the body and brain as artificial sweeteners are more complicated to digest than regular sugar. Therefore, this addition to root beer can lead to rapid weight gain, tummy aches, and increased cancer risk. 

Artificial coloring in root beer has some gnarly side effects. Recent studies have shown that the caramel color that gives root beer its classic orange tinge is associated with an increased risk of cancer. As a result, FDA is looking to ban it, but until then, root beer manufacturing companies still use it. 

Moreover, root beer contains an unhealthy amount of sugar. High sugar content in root beer can lead to weight gain, irritability, obesity, and in some severe cases, diabetes. 

Carbonated drinks such as root beer and Coca-Cola can also lead to stomach irritability. Such irritability can cause diarrhea, gassiness, and vomiting. Many of the ingredients in your root beer are not suitable for your body, so you should consume this beverage in moderation. 

Does Root Beer Have Phosphorus?

Phosphate additives are included in certain processed beverages to give them a longer shelf-life. However, most root beer does not contain phosphorus.  

Phosphorus in soft drinks should be strongly avoided, especially for those that suffer from kidney problems. Dialysis patients should stick to root beer with little phosphorus and mix it thoroughly with another drink. 

Phosphorus is commonly found in beverages containing milk and cream, which prevents powders from clumping together and creating lumps in your drink. Root beer, cream soda, and ginger ale are generally phosphorus-free. 

However, specific root beer varieties contain phosphorus and are mentioned on the ingredient list. So if you’re looking to buy root beer, read the back of the label to know exactly what you’re consuming. 

Varieties of root beer that do not contain phosphorus are A&W and Barq’s.

Is Root Beer Carcinogenic?

Modern root beer is not carcinogenic. Root beer was traditionally made from the bark of the sassafras tree, which had carcinogenic effects on drinkers. This increased the likelihood of cancer in the later stages of life. Therefore, FDA swiftly banned the inclusion of this bark in root beer production.  

If you’re planning to buy root beer from a small brewing facility, ensure they do utilise sassafras or sarsaparillas as their main flavoring. This ingredient is illegal in the US, but some brewpubs continue to use it. 

Quillaia Extract Root Beer

Root beer contains quillaia extract, which comes from the Rosaceae tree. Although this extract does not pose serious health concerns when ingested in low amounts, excessive consumption can cause intestinal disturbances, stomach pain, breathing problems, and even liver failure. 

Due to these side effects, you should consume your root beer in moderation so that these ingredients don’t interfere with your health.  

Some individuals use quillaia extract for medicinal purposes but there is insufficient evidence to support such claims. Natural products like quillaia extract might react abnormally if taken in high dosage. Therefore, you should closely monitor your quillaia extract consumption. 

Does Root Beer Have Phosphate Additives?

Phosphorus and phosphate additives are essentially the same thing. However, most root beer brands don’t include phosphate additives as they are needed to stabilize milk and cream products, and neither of the ingredients can be found in root beer. 

Some manufacturers may utilize these additives to help the product retain its shelf-life for longer. Unfortunately, long-term consumption of phosphate additives can cause kidney stones and make dialysis recovery more complex. 

Make sure you choose a root beer variant that fits your health requirements by reviewing the ingredient list. FDA requires root beer manufacturers to state if they have included phosphate additives in the beverage. 

Can Kids Drink Root Beer?

kid drinking root beer float

Yes, children can drink root beer. Root beer is generally non-alcoholic and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. However, refrain from buying ‘hard’ variants of root beer as they contain more alcohol and aren’t suitable for children. 

Plus, some root beer variants contain caffeine, which is an unhealthy stimulant even for adults. Pick a naturally non-caffeinated variety to ensure your child’s not risking their health. 

However, it’s essential to remember that most soft drinks are unsuitable for children’s growth. For example, drinking too much root beer can cause sugar dependency in children, which leads to irritability, overeating, and insomnia. 

In addition, kids have sensitive teeth while growing up, so excessive consumption of sugary drinks can damage their tooth enamel, causing yellowing and decay. 

Ice cream floats are an excellent way to dilute root beer with a child-friendly dessert. You can add milk if you want them to enjoy root beer without drinking too much. However, it’s best if they enjoy soft drinks later in life, so it doesn’t hinder normal development in childhood. 


Root beer is not the healthiest beverage around. It contains artificial additives, preservatives, and ingredients that make it unsuitable for those who care about their health. Therefore, you should only consume root beer in moderation and pick a brand renowned for its excellent selection of ingredients, such as IBC Root Beer

Carefully review the ingredient list at the grocery store to find a root beer variant to suit your needs. If you want to omit root beer altogether, you can try opting for lemonades, cream sodas, and herbal teas!