Acetic Acid in Food


Used to adjust the level of acidity of food.  Acidity may affect microbiological quality, cooking results, flavour or texture of food.


picture of vinegar - acetic acid

Acetic acid (also called ethanoic acid) is a weak organic acid.  Unlike a lot of other food additives, acetic acid is commonly used in home cooking.  Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its distinctive sour taste and pungent smell.

Common table vinegar is diluted acetic acid. Usually it is about 4% to 8% by mass. More concentrated solutions may be used in commercial pickling operations.

As an industrial chemical, it has many uses including the production of plastics and synthetic fibers and fabrics. It can also be used as a solvent.

It may be produced synthetically or by biological fermentation.

Side Effects / Adverse Reactions:

Most sources indicate that low concentrations of acetic acid are generally safe.  However, some studies have shown that long-term heavy vinegar consumption may cause:

  •  hypokalemia (low potassium levels in blood),
  •  hyperreninemia (the presence of an abnormally high concentration of renin in the blood)
  • osteoporosis (reduced bone density).

Common Foods Containing Acetic Acid:

As previously mentioned, common household vinegar is simply a diluted form of acetic acid. Therefore, foods that contain vinegar also contain acetic acid. This would include things like:

  • Pickled food,
  • Condiments such as Ketchup, Mayonnaise and Mustard,
  • Salad Dressings and Marinades.

Vinegar is commonly used to flavour fish and chips (french fries), potatoe chips, spinach, and cabbage.

Vinegar has other uses in cooking.  It can be used to sour milk to create a substitute for buttermilk.  It also reacts with alkaline ingredients like baking soda.  This reaction produces a gas that helps make baked goods rise.

E Number:

The E number of acetic acid is 260.

If you found this post useful, please leave a comment.


9 Comments on “Acetic Acid

  1. This is awesome information. My blood pressure medicine gives me hyperkalemia. How awesome is it that I have pre-diabetes and I have to eat dill pickles before my meals to close my pyloric valve at the bottom of my stomach so I retain food in my stomach longer. Now I learn that a side affect of acetic acid is hypokalemia. Wow 2 benefits from just 1 food!

  2. I’m doing reasherch on the Raxacoricofallapatorian race in Doctor Who so this was very helpful. Thanks a bunch! 🙂

    • Wow! I think this is the most unexpected comment this site has ever received. Who knew there might be aliens that explode when you throw vinegar on them.

      I’m glad you found what you were looking for though.

  3. Thanks for the information. I’m collecting information on food additives and trying to improve my diet, while I’m still young and healthy enough to see a difference in my quality of life and (hopefully) longevity.

  4. This information was very useful. I have some in my cupboard for a
    very long time and forgot what I used it for. I think I was making something that I had to preserve. I can now dilute it and use as vinegar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *