Citric acid is found in so many products. I start reading ingredients and it sounds great and then I get to citric acid. I have at least a dozen items in my pantry or fridge that list this as an ingredient. I keep buying them and yet I haven’t the slightest idea what is in it. I think it is fairly natural and harmless, but I am just guessing.
Guessing isn’t the best way to go about deciding what to put in my body so now seems like a good time to get to the bottom of this for all of us that don’t know and keep blindly purchasing items with citric acid.
What is it
Citric acid comes from the juice of citrus fruits. It is extracted from them and turned into a white powder. This is what I has always assumed. This next part shouldn’t come as a surprise but it does. The common citric acid you find today is made from feeding a mold variety, A. niger, which is found on onion, grapes and apricots. It is like Halloween for the mold picked to make citric acid. It is hopped up on sugar and then left too its on natural process to create the by-product citric acid. There are a few other steps in there and some chemicals added to complete the process. The mold used is referred to as black mold, but it is not the variety that you might find in your house that would, rightfully, cause panic.
I liked the idea of citric acid when I believed that it was from citrus. It made it seem like the same process as me putting lemon or lime juice on my guacamole to keep it from turning brown. Knowing that it isn’t as natural as I was assuming is disappointing.
Why is it used
Citric acid is added for a variety of purposes:
- flavoring agent – sodas
- preservative – many processed and canned foods (even your own canned tomatoes)
- emulsifier – ice creams and other fatty frozen treats
It has a sour taste so over use could change the flavor of a product unfavorable. If you have ever had sliced apples that tasted a little off and not as sweet as you would have liked, too much citric acid might be the culprit.
You can buy the citric acid powder in the canning section to help preserve your own canned goods. It also has applications as a cleaning agent used in a much larger quantity than you would find in your food, but might be a good option to get rid of some hard water stains.
Pros: It makes your flavored beverages taste citrusy and your can goods have a longer shelf life.
Cons: The most common citric acid doesn’t come from citrus. Some people can be allergic to citric acid. Eating too much can cause the enamel of your teeth to erode, you probably wouldn’t ever eat that much of it though not a huge con.
Processed level: 3-in its current form found in store products
Natural, Chemical, or Other: Chemical
Will I still eat it: Yes, if it is one of the only additives I will still buy products with citric acid
What other items listed in the label ingredient list give you pause? Leave them in the comments and I will do the research for a future post.
1-it is a long shot, but you could technically make it at home
2-it comes from something you know but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away
3-you need a masters or a PhD and a lot of lab equipment to make this.
Natural-comes from something grown or once living that has been cooked or processed to create a different product. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you just that it started its life as something you are familiar with.
Chemical-It was made in a lab mixing chemicals or a combination of natural products. This does not necessarily mean it is bad for you just that it doesn’t resemble any animal, plant or mineral.
Other-I don’t know where this come from and personally wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
Articles used in research: