Citric acid is used in literally hundreds of foods, from ripening mozzarella cheese to coating hard candy to give it a sour taste. But that doesn't mean it's all fit to eat. Because of its pH level, citric acid is also commonly sold and used as a household cleaner. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies citric acid as safe for human consumption, industrial-grade citric acid can cause some distress because it's not as pure as the food-grade product.
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Look first in grocery stores. Citric acid is usually sold in powdered form, sometimes as "sour salt" and frequently in the spices or kosher foods section. Check the ingredients to see if additives or other preservatives are listed.
Try shopping for it in a health-food store. Since it's a metabolite in almost all living things and considered to be a major carrier of biochemicals, many health food stores and organic groceries will carry a variety of high-quality citric acid brands, usually along with other spices.
Look in places that sell canning supplies, such as hardware stores or agricultural supply stores. Citric acid is used as a food preservative to keep fruit from turning brown and giving canned goods a longer shelf life.
Check online sites. A wide variety of health-related sites sell citric acid, and good prices are available for bulk purchases. Buy a small quantity first; if you like it, you can always buy a bigger amount later.
Tips and warnings
- Avoid liquid citric acid, since it may have been intended as a cleaner. Because of its chemistry, citric acid is often used as a natural cleaner. Citric acid meant for cleaning is usually much less pure than food-grade citric acid.
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