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The Citric Acid Quandary: Is 'Generally Recognized as Safe' Truly Safe?

Beyond the Label

The world of food additives, is extremely complex to us consumers. But we need to stand up and open our eyes to what is really going on when we put something into our bodies.


A very common culprit is Citric Acid. It stands out as a seemingly innocuous ingredient. Widely used in processed foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and an array of everyday items, it's time to delve into the lesser-known side of citric acid — a common additive with an uncommon source.



The Citric Acid Illusion

Many might associate citric acid with the tangy taste of citrus fruits, and while it does naturally occur in lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes, the citric acid used in today's food products takes a different route. The citric acid we encounter on ingredient lists is manufactured citric acid (MCA), not the naturally derived form found in fruits.


Pfizer pioneered the production of MCA in 1919, utilizing a microbial process involving a mutant strain of Aspergillus niger, commonly known as black mold. This microbial fermentation of sugars, often derived from genetically modified (GMO) corn, gives rise to the manufactured citric acid that finds its way into numerous consumables.


The Dark Side of Aspergillus Niger

Aspergillus niger, the black mold at the heart of the MCA production process, carries associations with a spectrum of systemic inflammatory issues. These issues span across respiratory,

gastrointestinal, neurological, and musculoskeletal domains. Despite high-heat processing designed to eliminate any potential threats, research has demonstrated that Aspergillus niger can persist and elicit inflammatory responses even after exposure to such conditions.


The concern lies in the possibility of fragments of Aspergillus niger making their way into the final product of manufactured citric acid. This raises questions about the potential ingestion of this toxic substance by consumers of products containing citric acid. As the incidence of digestive problems and chronic inflammatory diseases rises, it becomes imperative to recognize the adverse effects of additives like citric acid on our bodies.



Ubiquitous Presence: Beyond the Plate

Citric acid isn't confined to the realm of food; it permeates various aspects of daily life. From beverages to pharmaceuticals, supplements, cosmetics, personal care items, and cleaning products, its ubiquitous presence ensures that the average person encounters citric acid regularly, often unknowingly. Read that again, regularly.


Interestingly, manufactured citric acid obtained GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status even before the existence of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This historical status was granted without the scrutiny of scientific testing on its long-term consumption by humans. The lack of comprehensive studies on the health implications of prolonged exposure to manufactured citric acid raises concerns about its safety and impact on human health.


Navigating the Additive Landscape

As our understanding of the potential consequences of food additives deepens, it becomes crucial to navigate the additive landscape with caution. Reading ingredient lists is an essential practice, but a more proactive approach involves prioritizing real, whole foods that require no ingredient list.


Opting for items like grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, organic vegetables and fruits, sprouted nuts and seeds, and spring water in glass containers empowers us to make informed choices that prioritize health over convenience. By steering clear of processed and packaged products laden with chemical additives, we can foster a more holistic approach to nutrition and well-being.


At a time where processed foods increasingly resemble chemical concoctions rather than nourishing sustenance, understanding the origins and potential risks of additives like manufactured citric acid becomes a vital step towards reclaiming control over our health.


Awareness and informed choices serve as powerful tools in safeguarding our bodies against the unintended consequences of the modern food industry's quest for convenience.


  1. ScienceDirect - Citric Acid Production by Aspergillus niger

  2. PubMed - Safety Evaluation of Citric Acid, Calcium Citrate, and Potassium Citrate

  3. FDA - Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)

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