Sources of Food Ingredients: Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric Acid

  1. What is phosphoric acid?

    Phosphoric acid is an inorganic compound acid derived from the mineral phosphorus. It is a crystalline solid, but in its less concentrated form it is a colorless syrupy liquid. Phosphoric acid is used to acidify foods and beverages, and serves as a starting point to produce many phosphate derivatives.

  2. How is phosphoric acid made?

    Phosphoric acid is made two different ways.

    1. The wet process
      • Phosphoric acid is produced from fluorapatite, a phosphate rock, and the addition of a concentrated acid, such as sulfuric acid, in a series of well-stirred reactors. This results in phosphoric acid and calcium sulfate (gypsum). Water is added and the gypsum is removed by filtration along with other insoluble materials (e.g. silica). Fluoride is removed at a further stage through evaporation.
    1. The thermal process
      • The raw materials for this process are phosphorus and air. Phosphorus is sprayed into a furnace and is burnt in air (dried or undried) at about 1800-3000 degrees Kelvin.

  3. Why is phosphoric acid in my food?

    Phosphoric acid serves as an acidic fruit-like flavoring in food products such as jams and soft drinks.

  4. What foods and beverages contain phosphoric acid?

    Phosphoric acid can be found in soft drinks, dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, and buttermilk, and other processed foods like cereal bars, flavored waters, bottled coffee beverages, and processed meats.

  5. Is phosphoric acid permitted for use in the U.S. and in other countries?

    Phosphoric acid is considered generally recognized as safe or GRAS by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  6. Can phosphoric acid be used in foods marketed as organic, vegetarian, halal or kosher?

    Yes, phosphoric acid can be used in products labelled as vegetarian. Phosphoric acid can be certified kosher and halal which can then be used in kosher and halal foods.

  7. Why is phosphoric acid necessary in foods and beverages?

    Phosphoric acid helps prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, which can multiply easily in a sugary solution.

  8. How does the production and use of phosphoric acid impact the environment?

    Phosphoric acid is also used in some fertilizers, helping to improve the natural growth process of plants, algae, and crops.

  9. How does phosphoric acid make food more affordable?

    Phosphoric acid prevents the growth of mold and bacteria in foods with sugary solutions. This increases the shelf life of that food or beverage and thus improves affordability.

  10. Does phosphoric acid contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

    Phosphoric acid does not contain GMOs.

  11. Is phosphoric acid safe for children?

    Phosphoric acid is safe for children in moderation.

  12. How long has phosphoric acid been used in foods?

    Phosphoric acid has been used in food since at least 1885 when it was used to make the first formulations of what would later become Coca-Cola.