Food Additives: Disodium Phosphate
If you look up Food Additives: Disodium Phosphate, you will find it is a “sodium salt of phosphoric acid”.
If you’re a chemist, that is all the explanation needed. The fact is most of us are not chemists. We need a bit more information about exactly what disodium phosphate is.
Here’s a basic, yet more in-depth explanation.
We need to begin by understanding how phosphoric acid is produced.
How Phosphoric Acid is Produced
This is accomplished through a series of reactions involving sulfuric acid and ground phosphate rock. The resulting product is a blend of phosphoric and sulfuric acids. Additional chemical processes are used to removed contaminants, the product is filtered, and what remains is roughly 75% food grade phosphoric acid.
How Disodium Phosphate is Made from Phosphoric Acid
To create disodium phosphate (or other sodium phosphates), the phosphoric acid is treated (another chemical reaction) with a sodium compound.
The end result, granular disodium phosphate, is used as a food additive to enhance a food’s texture, increase shelf life, or to keep a dry mixture uniform during storage.
Uses for Disodium Phosphate
Disodium phosphate is a common food additive with non-food uses, too.
- In cleaning products
- In some pesticides
- As a corrosion inhibitor
Disodium phosphate has a wide variety of uses in food and industry due to its ability to act as a chemical buffer. That means it helps stabilize the pH of a substance, keeping the acidity or alkalinity from fluctuating too much.
For example, you may find this additive in products like:
- Cooking spray
- Some meats (injected solutions)
- Some canned goods (like evaporated milk, sauces, toppings)
Is it Safe?
Although it sounds scary with all the chemical reactions involved to create disodium phosphate, not to mention its industrial uses, the fact is phosphates are necessary for good health.
In fact, medicinal chemists actually create phosphates to treat certain medical conditions.
That’s right! Phosphates (there are 7 varieties; disodium phosphate is one of those) are used in medicine to treat high calcium levels in the blood, low phosphorous levels, and calcium-based kidney stones.
Phosphorous occurs naturally in animal-based foods (meat, milk, eggs, fish), nuts, and legumes, and is used in the body, along with calcium, to add structure and strength to our bones and teeth. Most people eating a traditional Western diet get more than enough phosphorous in their diet.
Excess phosphates in the body are removed by the kidneys; however, if unusually high levels of phosphorous accumulate in the body and exceed calcium levels, our bodies begin to consume the calcium stored in our bones. This can lead to brittle bones (osteoporosis).
As with most foods, moderation and balance are key to healthy living.
Armed with facts like these about ingredients in foods we eat, we can make better choices for our own special diet and unique situation.
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