If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients list on a food label, you’ve probably noticed the presence of citric acid. This widely used ingredient is found in a variety of processed foods, but what exactly is it and what purpose does it serve? Is citric acid a preservative?
What is citric acid
Citric acid is an organic acid found naturally in citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons. It has a sour taste and can be used as a flavoring agent or preservative. Citric acid was first isolated from lemon juice in 1784 by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who identified its sour taste as
Citric acid can be produced commercially by fermenting sugar with Aspergillus niger, a type of fungus. The commercial production process involves growing A. niger on sugar-rich media such as molasses or corn steep liquor for about ten days before harvesting the fungus cells for further processing.
These harvested cells are then processed to extract the citric acid they contain. The resulting product can then be used as an ingredient in food products or beverages such as soft drinks and energy drinks.
Is citric acid a preservative
Yes, citric acid can be used as a preservative in food because of its antimicrobial properties, which help inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold that can cause spoilage and foodborne illnesses.
For example, it has been shown to effectively prevent the growth of Listeria monocytogenes even when used at low concentrations (less than 0.5%).
Citric acid also helps preserve foods by reducing their pH level (acidity), which makes them less hospitable for bacterial growth and spoilage organisms that thrive in more neutral environments (pH 6-7). By lowering the pH level below 4, citric acid helps create an acidic environment that inhibits microbial growth while preserving food’s color, flavor, texture, and shelf life.
In addition to being an effective preservative agent, citric acid also enhances flavors and adds tartness to many foods, including jams & jellies, candy & gumdrops, salad dressings & sauces, ice cream, and frozen yogurt desserts!
Is citric acid a safe preservative
Citric acid is a naturally occurring acidic compound found in many fruits, vegetables, and other foods. It has been used as a preservative in food and drink products for decades due to its ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold. While it is considered safe to use in small amounts, it should be used with caution.
It is important to note that citric acid can interact with some medications, so if you are taking medication, always consult your doctor before consuming any product that contains citric acid. Additionally, higher concentrations of citric acid can irritate the skin or digestive system. Finally, if you are pregnant or nursing, it is best to avoid products containing citric acid altogether.
Overall, citric acid is generally considered safe when used in small amounts and as directed on food labels. But if you eat a lot of foods with a lot of citric acids, it’s important to be aware of how they might interact with your medications and how they might make you feel.
Citric acid benefits
Here are some of the benefits of citric acid:
1. May Help Fight Infections: Citric acid has antibacterial and antiviral properties that may help fight infections. Studies have shown that citric acid can inhibit the growth of certain types of bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus.
2. May Boost Digestion: Citric acid helps break down proteins in the stomach, which can help improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
3. May Improve Blood Flow: Citric acid may help improve blood circulation by reducing inflammation in the arteries, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
4. It May Help Prevent Kidney Stones: High levels of citrate in the urine can help prevent calcium from forming into kidney stones by binding with it before it forms crystals. Studies suggest that drinking lemonade with added citrate may reduce your risk of developing kidney stones by up to 50%.
5. May Reduce Muscle Soreness: Some studies suggest that taking citrate supplements before exercising may reduce muscle soreness after exercise by neutralizing lactic acids in the muscles that cause pain when they accumulate during exercise or physical activity.
The bottom line
Yes, citric acid is an effective preservative due to its antimicrobial properties, which help inhibit bacteria growth and reduce pH levels that are more hospitable for spoilage organisms like mold and mildew.
Citric acid, in addition to being an effective preservative agent for foods such as jams and jellies or ice cream and frozen yogurt desserts, also adds tartness to flavors while helping to extend shelf life by slowing down oxidation processes!