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Sources of Citric Acid

By Sam Vaid

Citric acid is commonly found in sour fruits and vegetables and has many commercial uses within several industries. Biochemically, it is a weak acid that plays an essential metabolic role within living things and also serves as an antioxidant. The average consumer will typically find citric acid in various products ranging from foods to personal care products. Although it is generally safe in moderate amounts, excessive consumption can lead to tooth erosion according to the American Dental Association.


Citric acid is commonly used as a food additive because it acts as a natural preservative. According to The European Citric Acid Manufacturers Association, it is used in many foods to control pH, which allows for enhancement of food preservation. Some manufacturers use citric acid as a chelating agent in seafood, which improves antioxidant action and limits spoilage. It also serves as a flavor enhancer, thereby increasing the palatability of a wide variety of foods.


The largest commercial application of citric acid is for soft drink preparation. According to The European Citric Acid Manufacturers Association, approximately 50 percent of citric acid demand is from beverage manufacturers. It is primarily used within this market as a flavor enhancer in order to give soft drinks a tangy taste. This is done to replicate tropical fruit flavors which are very popular among consumers. Furthermore, citric acid is used in fruit juices to promote consistent acidity throughout the product.

Personal Care Products

Citric acid can also be found in a variety of personal care products including vitamins, pain relief products and denture cleaners. They are used within this market to help dissolve active ingredients and improve taste for the consumer. This application is most commonly used for effervescent tablets that claim to speed up delivery time of the product as a result of placing it within water. Within the pharmaceutical industry, citric acid is utilized in the form of citrate salt for most active substances.

Industrial Applications

Citric acid plays an important role as an environmentally friendly cleaning agent. Many manufacturers have begun to use it within detergents as a replacement for harmful phosphates. Phosphates commonly end up in the water supply which leads to abnormal growths of algae in many lakes and rivers. This in turn has been shown to disrupt the biological balance of the ecosystem according to The European Citric Acid Manufacturers Association. Many countries have restricted the use phosphates in an efforts to become more eco-friendly. As a result, citric acid is being used as an alternative since it is completely biodegradable.

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