Citric acid is an ingredient found in nearly all commercial food products.
If you look at the list of ingredients of most food products sold in supermarkets, you will realize that citric acid is present in almost every list of food or drink ingredients. This ingredient is also found in ice tea, hummus or organic sauce.
What is citric acid and why is it used in the food industry?
Citric acid (citrate)
At first glance, citric acid may appear to represent lemon or lime juice extract. But in fact, modern citric acid is a biological compound with the formula C6H8O7, created by the fermentation of glucose. Citric acid looks like a white powder and tastes like lemon juice. It is produced by the fermentation of the Aspergillus mussel, as a metabolic result. This particular method is a cheap method, compared to the more expensive method of squeezing lemons and limes, and was discovered in 1917 by the American food chemist James Currie.
Why is citric acid used in many meals?
Citric acid is used as both a flavour enhancer and a preservative agent. It provides a sour taste to foods to give a more intense flavour, by both balancing the pH of foods and increasing acidity levels, in order to preserve them for a longer period of time. In other words, it increases the acidity of a microbe’s environment, making it more difficult for moulds or bacteria to survive and replicate. It is therefore understandable that citric acid is found in many modern products considering the positive attributes it provides. But these seemingly positive results come at a special cost.
Problems with citric acid
The primary problem with citric acid is that it can be manufactured from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Citric acid is produced from ingredients such as beetroot or maize and many genetically modified versions such as niger.
There are also other health implications that can arise from the ingestion of citric acid.
Citric acid is known to irritate the digestive system (ascorbic acid has similar attributes), causing heartburn and damage to the mucous membrane of the stomach. Skin, eye and respiratory ailments may be experienced as a result of overconsumption of citric acid. Based on some European studies, it is suggested that citric acid may be the cause of tooth decay.