What Are Acidity Regulators In Food?

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Acidity regulator is a common ingredient found in jams, jelly, ketchup, bread etc. Are they harmful additives? How do they work? What are the FSSI regulations on acidity regulators? Let us explore in detail.

What Are Acidity Regulators?

Acidity regulators as the name suggest regulate the acidity of food to maintain an optimal level of pH which in turn helps enhance the life of the food product. Acetic acid, citric acid, acetic acid, benzoic acid and sodium salts of the acids are some of the commonly used acidity regulators in food. These regulators are sometimes listed in the label as E numbers like E260, E331(ii) etc. But the FSSAI list of food additives mentions the names without the E number too.

Why Are Acidity Regulators Added To Food?

As mentioned earlier, acidity regulators are added to food to maintain an optimal pH level to enhance the life of the product.

As you might know, pH ranges from 0 to 14. Anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below 7 is acidic. Alkaline food is generally bitter and acidic food is sour. pH is important while preserving food because it determines the time and temperature the food must be treated in order to stop enzymatic and microbiological activity, thus ensuring the stability of the food. Some acidity regulators also help maintain the colour of the food.

For example, yoghurt is fermented till pH reaches 4.4 to 4.6. Bread needs to have a pH of 4.0 to 5.8 to ensure pathogens are not multiplied. Else, it has to be stored at a temperature of less than 5°C, which is not practical in India. Mayonnaise and other sauces are maintained at a pH of around 4.1 to prolong its shelf life.

Common Acidity Regulators

The common acidity regulators, as mentioned on the FSSAI Food Safety and Standards (Food Products
Standards and Food Additives) Regulations are-

E500 ii- Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate or Baking Soda is not just an acidity regulator useful for increasing alkalinity and neutralizing acidity. It is also used as a raising agent in different batter.

501 ii- Pottasium Hydrogen Carbonate is used as a low-sodium substitute for baking soda. It is used as a raising agent and acidity regulator in cakes, pancakes, biscuits, doughnut etc. Further, it is sometimes added to wine too.

170i– Calcium carbonate is an anticaking agent and an acidity regulator just like baking soda. But, it doesn’t act as a raising agent.

INS 270- Lactic acid is made by fermenting carbohydrates in milk, whey, cornstarch etc. It is used in salad dressings, sweets, soft drinks, infant formula etc.

INS 330- Citric acid is used as an acidity regulator in jams and marmalades. It also acts as an aroma compound and helps maintain consistency in jams and jellies. Further, it decreases enzymatic browning in fruits and fruit products.

INS260- Glacial acetic acid ( which is concentrated form of acetic acid) is used as an acidity regulator in pickles, chutney and sauces.

INS261- Potassium Acetates are used is used not just as an acidity regulator, but also as a thickening agent and emulsifier in sauces and pickles. It is advised to be avoided by those with impaired kidney function.

E262 i- Sodium Acetate acts as an acidity regulator as well as a preservative. Usually, a combination of sodium acetate and acetic acid is added to food to make the taste milder.

E263- Calcium acetate, just like Sodium Acetate is also an acidity regulator, preservative and stabilizer.

E296- Malic acid is a water soluble acidity regulator and flavour enhancer that inhibits the growth of yeast, mould and bacteria. It is used in hard candies, canned tomatoes, beverages, salad oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing and fruit pie fillings. It may cause nausea, headache and diarrhoea in sensitive individuals.

E325- Sodium lactate solution is sodium salt of lactic acid is an acidity regulator, preservative and bulking agent. It is generally considered a safe food substance in the EU and US.

E331i- Monosodium citrate is used as an acidity regulator in food and drinks and an emulsifier for oil.

E331ii- Trisodium citrate is alkaline in nature and is used as a flavouring agent in certain club sodas.

E333- Calcium citrate is used as an acidity regulator, as a preservative and also for flavour. In large quantities, calcium citrate may cause mouth ulcers.

E524- Sodium hydroxide is an acidity regulator which is a strong alkali. It is used in sour cream, cocoa products, fat, oil, jam, tinned vegetables, black olives etc.

E526- Calcium hydroxide just like E524 is an alkaline acidity regulator. It is used in sweet frozen products, nutmeg, cocoa, wine etc.

E334- Tartaric Acid is a natural acid present in fruits like grapes. It is commercially prepared from the grape skin, which is a waste product in wine manufacturing. It is used as an acidity regulator in confectionary, soft drinks, wine, jam and marmalade.

The list is not exhaustive. Many other additives too are used as acidity regulators. Some examples are monosodium tartrate, potassium sodium tartrate, orthophosphoric acid, disodium orthophosphate, tricalcium orthophosphate etc.

Ill Effects of Acidity Regulators

In moderation, acidity regulators are not harmful. But, in excess amount, it may cause teeth erosion and an upset stomach. Further, allergies to acidity regulators like citric acid are also known.

Regulations On Acidity Regulators

The regulations on acidity regulators are strict for milk and dairy products, oil, fruits and vegetables, dried pasta, fruit juices, ketchup, wine etc. There are tables that mention specific quantity permissible per Kilogram basis too. However, for certain food products, it is left to Good Manufacturing Practices. This means it is up to the manufacturer to add the additives to the lowest possible level to achieve necessary results. Moreover, the use of acidity regulator has to be disclosed on the product label too.

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