Label Decoder: Citric Acid

You’ll find citric acid in a variety of sweet foods like jams, gelatin desserts, candy, and ice cream. Luckily, it’s safe. Here’s some info on how it’s made and where it’s found.
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You’ll this food additive in a variety of sweet foods -- jams, gelatin desserts, candy and ice cream, to name a few. Luckily, it’s safe. Here’s some info on how it’s made and why it's used.

What Is It?

Citric acid (a.k.a. sodium citrate) comes from the juice of citrus fruits and berries. It’s created by fermenting cane sugar or molasses with the fungus Aspergillus niger. Cooks and food manufacturers use it as a flavor enhancer, antioxidant and to increase the acidity of food, especially when canning. You'll typically find it in ice cream, sherbet, carbonated beverages, candy and reconstituted instant potatoes -- it shows up on a lot of packaged food labels because it's versatile and cheap.

Is It Safe?

Citric acid was first isolated from lemon juice by a Swedish chemist in the late 1700s, so we've been eating it for a while. Experts consider it safe and we have long relied on it to add acidity, which helps preserve food. Some folks may be intolerant to citric acid; if that's you, reading labels is essential since it’s found naturally in many fruits, veggies and added to so many packaged foods.

Next Up

Label Decoder: Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum's not hard to find when you're checking labels. Candy, puddings, ice cream, even cottage cheese -- it's all over grocery store shelves. Although it’s not the easiest word to pronounce, xanthan gum is one additive that you can chew on without worry.

Label Decoder: High Maltose Corn Syrup

You've probably seen high maltose corn syrup listed on food labels before, even if you don't quite remember where. Did you know high maltose corn syrup is a close cousin to the infamous high fructose corn syrup? Numerous questions are probably swirling in your head right now. Luckily, we'll tell you all about it. Read on to get the scoop (literally; it's found in ice cream).

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