The acidity regulator and antioxidant orthophosphoric acid (also known as E338) is a food supplement, without which it is impossible to imagine popular drinks like “Coca-cola” or “Pepsi”. In addition to drinks, it is found in sausages, processed cheeses and baking mixes. The properties of the additive have found application in other industries not related to the production of food for the population. With regard to its safety for humans, discussions are held, experiments are conducted, facts are given, but so far the manufacturers continue to use the supplement, and only in the last few decades, the world community has found it necessary to regulate the rate of use of the substance in food.
Methods for producing additive E338 and chemical properties
Phosphoric acid is an inorganic compound and refers to weak acids. It has the form of a colorless powder, consisting of small granules, has the properties of hygroscopicity.
The melting point is from 42 degrees Celsius, while the crystals turn into a colorless, uniform and viscous liquid. The substance has a characteristic sour taste, and it has no smell. It has good solubility in water and organic solvents. A common use in industry is in the form of an 85 percent aqueous solution. In the process of reaction with strong acids, it forms salts, and with silver nitrate it produces a yellow precipitate.
There are several ways to obtain the additive E338, therefore, they directly distinguish between orthophosphate acid and thermal orthophosphoric acid. In the first case, the substance is obtained by treating phosphates with sulfuric, nitric or hydrochloric acid.
The resulting substance is purified. This method is more cost-effective, as it implies less labor, time and electricity. Obtaining a thermal variety of the additive implies a cleaner substance at the outlet. This process includes 4 steps. Elemental phosphorus is first burned until it converts to phosphoric anhydride.
The result of the thermal reaction is absorbed with the participation of acid, condensed and cooled. Another production technology is the hydrolysis of phosphorus pentachloride.
The additive is mainly used as an antioxidant that slows down the oxidation of elements. In the food industry, it is valued as a component that can extend the shelf life of food and is designed to add sourness to the taste of the product.
Packaging and handling requirements
The container in which the acid is packaged must necessarily have the designation “Danger”, “Caustic liquid”.
It is allowed to store and transport the additive in such packaging:
- polyethylene cans;
- glass bottles;
- stainless steel containers and tankers that have undergone special processing;
- plastic cubes.
For convenience, the containers themselves are placed in plastic drums or wooden boxes, inside which should be soft filler to avoid damage to the package.
Contact with the skin or mucous membranes, eyes, or respiratory tract can cause burns, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and tissue damage. In this case, you must immediately seek medical help.
Acid is hazardous to handle, therefore it can only be operated away from open sources of fire in a well-ventilated area.
Mandatory protective clothing: gloves, a respirator, glasses, boots and a suit for working with hazardous substances.
The use of acid in industry
Today, there are at least seven industries that use orthophosphate or phosphoric acid.
As an antioxidant, baking powder and acidity regulator, acid is widely used in the preparation of such foods:
- sweet carbonated drinks;
- cream cheese;
- dairy products;
- baby food;
- some confectionery.
The additive gives the food an acidity or a slightly bitter aftertaste.
In the chemical industry, the substance is used for the manufacture of phosphoric salts of ammonium, manganese and sodium, refractory binders, and non-combustible foam.
As an element of hydrofluids, acid is used in the aviation industry.
The agricultural industry uses the additive as a component of mineral fertilizers.
In addition, E338 is an element of the manufacture of paints, glass and ceramics, detergents, activated carbon, non-flammable paints.
The medical field, especially dentistry, uses phosphoric acid for its own purposes: to combat urolithiasis, as a reagent for treating the internal surfaces of dental crowns before installing them.
The cosmetology industry uses the stabilizing property of acid: the component strengthens the chemical bonds between the constituent elements of the products.
At home, the substance is popular as a tool for removing rust from metals.
Impact on human health
The food supplement E338 is not completely safe and harmless. Nevertheless, its use is permitted in the countries of the European Union, in Russia, Ukraine and the USA. According to international standards, the content of a substance in food products cannot exceed 9 g per 1 kilogram of the finished product.
The constant use of acid has a bad effect on the bone tissue of the body: since it helps to increase the level of acidity in the body, the latter tries to neutralize it due to calcium.
Macroelement he “takes” from bones and teeth, so osteoporosis and caries can develop.
Among the other negative consequences of consuming products with this component in the composition of doctors, the occurrence of diseases of the digestive tract, including gastritis and ulcers of the stomach and intestines, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, is noted.
To date, scientists do not have any information about the possible benefits of the supplement. Also, data on a possible relationship between the use of acid in food and the appearance of cancer, infertility or gene mutations have not been confirmed.
Phosphoric acid is a synthetic antioxidant and stabilizer, an acidity regulator and a component of many popular foods and drinks. Despite the fact that the product is assigned an average level of danger, it is an ingredient in soda “Coca-cola” and “Pepsi”, which both adults and children like to drink. Recently, scientists have increasingly drawn the attention of the world community to the fact that the food supplement E338 is one of the common causes of caries, disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract, and leaching of calcium from the body. So far, the only thing they have managed to achieve is the establishment of the maximum permitted amount of the substance as an additive to food products. And today, the study of the properties and results of the use of additives in food, as well as the search for an alternative that is similar in price and ease of preparation, continues. Until it is found, and in the composition of the food you can still find the ingredient under the code “E338”. The consumer can only carefully study the labels and decide for themselves whether to buy products with this acidity regulator.