Uses of Phosphoric Acid in Food Industry – Food Additives

What is Phosphoric acid?

Phosphoric acid is an inorganic mineral that has the chemical formula H3PO4. It is considered as weak acid. Phosphoric acid is also known as Orthophosphoric acid or Phosphoric (V) acid. It is colorless and odorless. Liquid phosphoric acid is also known to have a syrupy consistency.

A pure phosphoric acid is found in crystal that is extracted from rocks (by burning the phosphorus element and adding water to the byproduct). A very low number of phosphorus-containing substances (about 0.1-0.5%) naturally-occurred in several foods, such as poultry, fish, nuts, and egg yolk. Phosphoric acid is an example of corrosive acid. It can also form toxic gas when it is in contact with organic compound (such as alcohol and ketones).

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Uses of Phosphoric Acid in Food Industry

Phosphoric acid can serve for many uses in our daily life. Phosphoric acid also plays an important role in several food industry. It is widely used in the industry due to its cheap prices. A food-grade phosphoric acid is often referred as additive E338.

It is relatively easy to determine whether food products contain phosphoric acid. It can be seen on its ingredients list. Several phosphoric acid names that are usually listed as an ingredient are E338, Orthophosphoric acid, Phosphoric (V) acid, Pyrophosphoric acid, Triphosphoric acid, 0-Phosphoric acid, and Hydrogen phosphate. Uses of phosphoric acid in the food industry can be seen as listed below.

  • Carbonated soft drinks: Phosphoric acid is often added to carbonated drinks to give a sharper and tangy taste. It also helps to slow down the growths of molds and bacteria in sugar formula.
  • Jams: Food-grade phosphoric acid is also used as an additive for jams. It provides a tangy and sour taste.
  • Dairy products: Phosphoric acid is used in the production of dairy products. The salts of phosphoric acid are used to modify the protein and alter the pH level of a product to improve the product’s quality. Examples of dairy products than contain phosphoric acid are milk, buttermilk, and cottage cheese.
  • Food additives: Phosphoric acid is known to be used as a food additive. Some phosphoric acid-based food additives are dicalcium phosphate, hexametaphosphate, sodium phosphate, and tricalcium phosphate.
  • Baking powders
  • Cereal bars
  • Flavored waters
  • Bottled coffee beverages
  • Processed meats

Besides being used in the food industry, phosphoric acid also has many used. Uses of phosphoric acid other than food industry can be seen as listed below.

  • Removal of rust: One of the common uses of phosphoric acid is that it is used as a rust remover. Phosphoric acid has the ability to remove rust from metal surfaces (such as iron and steel). It converts reddish-brown iron (ferric oxide) to a black-colored ferric phosphate. The black ferric phosphate can be easily scrubbed revealing the fresh metal surface. Multiple application of phosphoric acid may be needed for a complete rust removal. It can provide a further corrosion resistance after the application. Phosphoric acid-based rust remover is usually found as green liquid but can also be found formulated as gel.
  • Fertilizers: Fertilizer is the main use of phosphoric acid. Over 90% of produced phosphoric acid is used to make fertilizers. There are three common phosphoric acid-based fertilizers that are used, like triple superphosphate (TSP), diamonium hydrogenphosphate (DAP) and monoammonium dihydrogenphosphate (MAP).
  • Buffer agents: Phosphoric acid is also used as a buffer agent in Biology and Chemistry.
  • Dentistry: Phosphoric acid is used in dentistry as an etching solution. It is used to clean and roughen the surface of your teeth where dental appliances will be placed.
  • Cosmetics: phosphoric acid is used as a pH adjuster in various cosmetics and skin-care products.
  • Raising agent: There are various salts of phosphoric acid that is used as raising agent, such as monocalcium phosphate.
  • Catalyst: Phosphoric is used as a catalyst in the hydration process of alkenes, which is used to produce alcohols.
  • Oxidizing agent: Phosphoric acid is also used as an oxidizing agent in the production of activated carbon. 
  • Livestock feed
  • Soaps
  • Toothpaste
  • Polishes
  • Dyes
  • Detergents
  • Leather treatment
  • Anodizing solution
  • Sanitizing agent
  • Vehicle manufacture
  • Edible oil
  • Sugar refining
  • Yeast manufacture
  • Wet etching agent
  • Bio waste treatment

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Health effects that is Caused by Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid may bring us side effects when it is inhaled, ingestion, or get in contact with our body. If you got poisoned by phosphoric acid, you should call a doctor or seek immediate medical treatment. Those side effects can be seen as listed below.

  • Dermatitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tearing
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chemical burns
  • Irritated nose
  • Irritated throat
  • Severe skin burns
  • Permanent eye damage
  • Gastrointestinal problems 

Besides above health issues affected by phosphoric acid, there are also other health effects that are caused by consuming foods and beverages that contain phosphoric acid. Although the effects can be very dangerous at times, it can be avoided by consuming healthier alternatives that do not contain any phosphoric acid, such as sparkling mineral water, switchel, kombucha, and coconut water. Some of those health effects can be seen as listed below.

  • Lower bone density: Study found that athletic teen girls who consume phosphoric acid-containing carbonated soft drinks have five times the risk of bone fractures than those who don’t. Phosphoric acid-containing carbonated drinks were also linked to lower bone density cases in women.
  • Teeth/dental erosion: It is also known that phosphoric acid-containing carbonated drinks may cause tooth enamel erosion (even at a very low level).
  • Major kidney issue: A study found that phosphoric acid may be responsible for urinary changes that promote kidney stones. A research that is done in 2007 also found that drinking two or more colas each day was associated with twice the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
  • Decreases nutrients in the body: An excessive consumption of phosphoric acid may lead to the decreasing of calcium in the body.
  • Increases the acidity in the body
  • Damaging human tissue

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Meanwhile, that’s all the explanation about uses of Phosphoric Acid in food industry.