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Calcium Stearate in Tenderizer & Stomach Pain

By Sharon Perkins

Calcium stearate is an additive used as an anti-caking agent. In commercial meat tenderizer, keeps the powder from clumping and sticking together. In the amounts found in meat tenderizer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies calcium stearate as "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS. Calcium stearate is highly unlikely to cause stomach pain in the amounts used to tenderize meat. Toxic doses may cause symptoms such as abdominal pain. Talk to your doctor if you have stomach pain after consuming meat tenderizer.


Manufacturers create calcium stearate by reacting stearic acid, a fatty acid obtained from either plant or animal sources, with calcium oxide. Calcium stearate reduces friction between particles in meat tenderizer and other powders, which makes them easier to shake out of the container. Calcium stearate is sold as both a food grade and technical grade product. Technical grade products contain more impurities or traces of other chemicals than food grade products and are not used in food.


Some holistic and alternative practitioners have expressed concern over the potential toxicity of stearic acid, particularly in vitamin supplements. The American diet consists of approximately 3 to 4 percent stearic acid, which is found in chocolate and other substances, according to the National Organic Standards Board Technical Advisory Panel Review. The average American consumes 0.35 milligrams of stearic acid daily, a National Research Council study determined. While stearic acid normally doesn't cause stomach pain, an individual could experience a sensitivity to almost any substance. Call your doctor if this occurs.

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Side Effects

Calcium stearate, when used in proper doses in food products, is "essentially innocuous" and presents no toxicological threat, according to the National Organic Standards Board Technical Advisory Panel Review. No effect on human health, such as stomach pain, has been documented in normal doses, even though this product is ubiquitous, found in many foods, cosmetics and plastic products.

Toxic Doses

In large doses that cause acute toxicity, calcium stearate might cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Systemic effects such as ringing in the ears, dizziness, high blood pressure and blurred vision might also occur. These symptoms are not reported as side effects at normal doses found in meat tenderizers.

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