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Is Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate Dangerous?

author image Nancy Clarke
Nancy Clarke began writing in 1988 after achieving her Bachelor of Arts in English and has edited books on medicine, diet, senior care and other health topics. Her related affiliations include work for the American Medical Association and Oregon Health Plan.
Is Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate Dangerous?
A woman is selecting potatoes from the supermarket. Photo Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Additives to commercial food mixes act as leavening, emulsifiers and stabilizers and in other chemical reactions that improve the quality or shelf life of foods. Phosphate additives, such as sodium acid pyrophosphate and other phosphoric acid compounds, may pose safety concerns in certain concentrations. If you cook with a lot of prepared mixes, the phosphorus component of these compounds can add significantly to your daily intake of natural dietary phosphorus, which is found in many foods, such as dairy and meat products.

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Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate Properties

Sodium acid pyrophosphate, or disodium pyrophosphate, is an edible phosphoric salt that helps create leavening used for baking, such as baking powder, and prevents food discoloration, such as in raw potatoes. In its bulk state, such as at the manufacturing laboratory, the acidic nature of sodium acid pyrophosphate may be very hazardous upon skin or eye contact, inhalation or ingestion, causing severe inflammation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers if safe for human consumption, however, in its dispersed state as a food ingredient.

Food Sources

Sodium acid pyrophosphate is an ingredient in baking powders and self-rising flours and cornmeals. It is found in commercially prepared cake, pudding, waffle, pancake and muffin mixes. Sodium acid pyrophosphate is also added to refrigerated dough products, flavored milk, cured meats, potato products and canned fish.

Recommended Daily Allowance of Phosphorus

The suggested daily intake of phosphorus for people 18 and older is 700 milligrams. This intake level supplies adequate phosphorus for healthy bone formation and cellular energy processing. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies sets an upper tolerance level at 4,000 milligrams of phosphorus per day. Beyond this amount, a loss of bone mineral density and the ability to fully absorb dietary calcium are possible. It would be difficult or impossible for you to obtain that much phosphorus from sodium acid pyrophosphate or other phosphate food additives alone due to their typical dispersal in prepared foods. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, the phosphorus-to-calcium ratio in your diet also plays a part in safe phosphorus intake levels, and should not exceed 1 to 1. Recommended calcium intake for adults is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams.

Health Effects

You are more likely to exceed safe phosphorus intakes from high-phosphorus foods, such as cheeseburgers and milk products, than from the small amount of sodium acid pyrophosphate added to a boxed cake mix. For example, a fast-food cheeseburger supplies 353 milligrams of phosphorus, while one piece of angelfood cake made from a mix has 116 milligrams of phosphorus. In combination, however, overconsumption of phosphorus-containing foods and additives can result in elevated blood phosphorus levels, which may contribute to osteoporosis.

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