Orthophosphoric acid (E338)

Acidity regulator and antioxidant phosphoric acid (also known as E338) is a nutritional 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. Regarding its safety for humans, discussions are being sharpened, experiments are being conducted, facts are being given, but so far manufacturers continue to use the additive, and only in the last few decades the world community has considered it necessary to regulate the rate of use of the substance in food.

E338 production methods and chemical properties

Orthophosphoric acid is an inorganic compound and is classified as a weak acid. It has the form of a colorless powder, consisting of small granules, has the properties of hygroscopicity.

Melting point - from 42 degrees Celsius, while the crystals turn into a colorless, homogeneous 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 as an 85% aqueous solution. In the process of reaction with strong acids, it forms salts, and with silver nitrate, it gives off a yellow precipitate.

There are several ways to obtain the E338 additive, therefore, orthophosphate acid and orthophosphoric thermal acid are distinguished directly. 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 involves less labor, time and energy. Obtaining a thermal version of the additive implies a cleaner substance at the output. This process includes 4 steps. First, elemental phosphorus is burned until it is converted to phosphoric anhydride.

The result of the thermal reaction is absorbed by the 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 requirements and rules for handling the substance

The container in which the acid is packaged must be marked “Dangerous”, “Corrosive liquid”.

It is permitted to store and transport the additive in the following packaging:

  • polyethylene cans;
  • glass bottles;
  • stainless steel containers and tankers that have undergone special treatment;
  • plastic cubes.

For convenience, the containers themselves are placed in polyethylene drums or wooden boxes, inside which there should be a soft filler to avoid damage to the package.

Contact with skin or mucous membranes, eyes or inhalation may cause burns, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and tissue damage. In this case, you must immediately seek medical help.

Acid is hazardous to handle and should only be handled away from open flames in a well ventilated area.

Mandatory protective clothing: gloves, respirator, goggles, boots and suit for working with hazardous substances.

Acid use in industry

Today, there are at least seven industries that use orthophosphate or orthophosphoric acid.

As an antioxidant, leavening agent and acidity regulator, acid is widely used in the preparation of such foods:

  • carbonated soft drinks;
  • sausages;
  • processed cheese;
  • muffins;
  • dairy products;
  • baby food;
  • ​​
  • some confectionery.

An additive imparts a sour or slightly bitter aftertaste to food.

In the chemical industry, the substance is used for the manufacture of phosphorus salts of ammonium, manganese and sodium, refractory binders, non-combustible foam.

As an element of hydraulic fluids, acid is used in the aviation industry.

The agricultural industry uses the additive as a constituent of mineral fertilizers.

In addition, E338 is an element for the production of paints and varnishes, 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 inner surfaces of dental crowns before they are installed.

The cosmetology industry takes advantage of the stabilizing property of acid: the component strengthens the chemical bonds between the constituent elements of the products.

In the home, the substance is popular as a rust remover for metals.

Impact on human health

Food supplement E338 is not completely safe and harmless. Nevertheless, its use is allowed 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 increases the level of acidity in the body, the latter tries to neutralize it due to calcium.

A macronutrient it “takes” from bones and teeth, so osteoporosis and caries can develop.

Among other negative consequences of the use of products with this component in the composition, doctors note the appearance of diseases of the digestive tract, including gastritis and ulcers of the stomach and intestines, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

There is currently no information from scientists about the possible benefits of the supplement. Also, data on a possible connection 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, acidity regulator and ingredient in many popular foods and drinks. Despite the fact that the product has been assigned an average level of danger, it is an ingredient in Coca-cola and Pepsi sodas, which both adults and children love to drink. Recently, scientists are increasingly drawing the attention of the world community to the fact that the food additive E338 is one of the common causes of caries, disorders in the gastrointestinal tract, and calcium leaching from the body. So far, the only thing they have been able to achieve is the establishment of the maximum permitted amount of a substance as an additive to food products. And today, the study of the properties and results of using the supplement in food continues, as well as the search for an alternative that is similar in price and ease of obtaining. So far, it has not been found, and the ingredient under the code “E338” can still be found in the composition of food. The consumer can only carefully study the labels and decide for himself whether to buy products with this acidity regulator.