Citric Acid

Citric acid is a weak organic acid that is produced as a white crystalline powder. It is a natural food preservative that is also used to add an acidic, or sour taste to foods and soft drinks. In biochemistry, it is important as an intermediate in the Krebs (citric acid) cycle and therefore occurs in the metabolism of virtually all living things. Citric acid can also be used as an environmentally benign cleaning agent.


TCC’s citric acid is a useful ingredient in beverages, jams, jellies, candies and frozen foods. It is also added in gelatin and fruit-based desserts as well as in canned vegetables and meat products. Citric acid preserves food and enhances flavor. It is one of the most useful ingredients in the food and beverage industries.

Citrate salts of various metals are used to deliver those minerals in a biologically available form in many dietary supplements. The buffering properties of citrates are used to control pH in household cleaners and pharmaceuticals.

Citric acid’s ability to chelate metals makes it useful in soaps and laundry detergents. By chelating the metals in hard water, it lets these cleaners produce foam and work more efficiently without the need for water softening.

Citric acid is recognized as being safe for use in food by all major national and international food regulatory agencies. It is naturally present in almost all forms of life, and excess citric acid is readily metabolized and eliminated from the body.

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Citric acid exists in greater than trace amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably citrus fruits. Lemons and limes have particularly high concentrations. Citric acid can constitute as much as 8% of the dry weight of these fruits.

At room temperature, citric acid is a white crystalline powder. It can exist either in an anhydrous (water-free) form or as a monohydrate. The anhydrous form crystallizes from hot water. The monohydrate will form when citric acid is crystallized from cold water. The monohydrate can be converted to the anhydrous form by heating above 78°C. Citric acid also dissolves in absolute ethanol at 15° C.

In chemical structure, citric acid shares the properties of other carboxylic acids. When heated above 175°C, it decomposes through the loss of carbon dioxide and water. Citric acid leaves a white crystalline precipitate.

Citric acid is a slightly stronger acid than typical carboxylic acids. This is because the anion can be stabilized by intermolecular hydrogen-bonding from other protic groups on citric acid.

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