The scoop on the most common food additive – Citric Acid

Written by Kajsa IngelssonFebruary 13, 2018

The chances that you have come across the food additive  “Citric acid” is more than likely. It’s is common in so many things: wine and beer, pre-packaged fruits and veggies, hummus, salsa, even cleaning supplies and beauty products. It’s the most common preservative and flavoring additive (it lends a slightly sour taste to whatever it’s laced into).

Here’s the thing, you have the good kind of citric acid that’s found in vegetables and fruit, particularly in citrus fruits (duh). But however, there’s also the kind of citric acid that’s whipped up in a lab. This kind is created from black mold.

Yes, you read that right, black mold. What, why and what to do next? Let’s dive into this and see the good and bad so you can make the best decision for your health.

The good kind

There are great benefits to consuming foods that contain naturally occurring citric acid (from, say, lemon or lime juice) because it acts as an antioxidant, meaning it protects the body from damaging free radicals. Eating antioxidants helps with everything from heart health to cancer prevention.

It also works as an alkalizing agent, helping to decrease acidity in your body.

The bad stuff

If you feed certain sugars (like corn starch and sugar beets) to the fungus Aspergillus niger (a common black mold), you end up with the artificial form of citric acid. It’s a cheap, easy way to produce a food additive.

In the end-process, the black mold is filtered out, but it’s believed that the mycotoxins (microscopic waste products left behind by the fungus) aren’t entirely eliminated. Mold and mycotoxins have been tied to respiratory issues, allergies, and even chronic illness.

Plus, the sugar added to the mold to make citric acid comes primarily from beets and corn, which are among the mostly commonly produced genetically modified organisms (GMOs).


There’s not any large, definitive studies showing a clear correlation between the additive and health problems.

But in my book, anything that comes from black mold is out. Why take the risk? It’s easy to avoid by making your own food, or buying fresh produce and other products. Also, if the label states citric acid, its usually the fake kind. Most companies will write out lemon juice or something like it if they use the real stuff.

Start boosting your intake of natural citric acid today by making lemon/orange dressings or why not squeeze some lime or lemon into your water? To your health, cheers!