Healthy Living

Is Citric Acid Safe?

What Is Citric Acid?

Chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered that citric acid could be naturally created by crystallizing lemon juice. However, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer expounded on the chemists James Currie’s theory that discovered certain strains of mold could be used to synthetically curate citric acid.

In the current age, most citric acid is not made from lemons, it is derived from mold. Most commercially produced citric acid is derived from aspergillus niger, which is a form of black mold. This form of citric acid is made by manipulating sugars exposed to black mold and filtered using sulfuric acid, which is a genetically modified organism (GMO). Citric acid was formerly made from fruit, but corporations found a cheaper short-cut by producing the GMO form. Unfortunately, this is now the common practice. GMO derived citric acid is a common ingredient, food additive, and preservative which can trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to it.

Originally, citric acid was a natural compound and is still found naturally in citrus fruits, however the Frankenstein form of it created from GMO sources is the dominant form used in commercial products.

Is it Safe?

Citric acid is not listed as toxic by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they do not mandate that companies state whether the citric acid they used in products is derived from natural sources or synthetically created.  

Currently there are no scientific studies that evaluate the safety of mold-derived citric acid when consumed for an extended period of time. There have, however been reports of sickness and allergic reactions to the additive. Citric acid intolerance is not the same as a citrus allergy. Citrus allergy sufferers react to substances specific to citrus fruits, but people with citric acid intolerance react only to GMO derived citric acid itself.

Citric acid intolerance is not a food allergy, it is a literal physical intolerance to the compound. Intolerances occur when the body lacks some chemical or enzyme necessary for it to properly digest a particular substance.  For example, lactose intolerance which is caused by a genetic defect which makes the body unable to produce the enzyme, lactase. Sufferers of citric acid intolerance lack the ability to process it. There are blood tests available for food allergies, but since reactions to citric acid are not IgE-mediated, there is currently no blood test for citric acid.

The University of Illinois in Chicago, USA published research that explored how commercially produced citric acid could play a role in contributing to serious diseases. An excerpt from this study stated the following alarming statement:

“Aspergillus proteins or by-products from the manufacturing process may be inflammatory with repetitive exposure. We conclude that there is enough anecdotal data to support the need for thorough evaluation of the safety and risks associated with the ubiquitous use of the currently manufactured citric acid in our foods, beverages and other ingested substances.”

University of Illinois, Chicago USA

The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology published a clinical study comparing Aspergillus allergens which stated the following results:

“All patients with allergic bronchopulmonaly aspergillosis reacted to skin prick tests with the commercial extracts, and eight were sensitized to rAsp f I/a [the Aspergillus allergen]. Of 10 patients with well-characterized A. fumigatus-allergic asthma nine showed positive skin prick test results to at least one of the commercial extracts, and five reacted to rAsp f Ila [the Aspergillus allergen].

The healthy control subjects and allergic patients with asthma without A. fumigatus allergy did not react in skin prick and intradermal tests to rAsp f I/a [the Aspergillus allergen].

In addition, patients with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis showed significant elevated levels of rAsp f Ila-specific IgG, and IgG, but no significant differences in rAsp f I/a-specific serum Ig4 levels when compared with the healthy control subjects.”

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

In layman’s terms, some of the test subjects who had diagnosed allergic conditions reacted to the Aspergillus allergen, unlike the healthy subjects who also participated in the study. Which may suggest people who already struggle with allergic conditions may find benefit from avoiding citric acid if it exacerbates their symptoms.

Choosing whether you eliminate citric acid or not should be a choice between you and your doctor. If you want to remove this item from your diet, the first step is to read labels and discover what foods and beverages contain this chemical. Then, it is recommended you keep a health journal to track your symptoms and progress to help you figure out what is impacting your health.

You are in control of what you put into your body!

For more information on other chemicals which may be impacting your health and to learn more about living more naturally, check out Holistic Homemaking: The Guide to Identifying Toxic Exposure and Creating Safe, Natural Solutions.

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