In 9 Best Easy Steps, “What is sodium citrate?” Explained!

Sodium citrate (substance E 331) is a common acidity regulator in foods. It is also getting used in medicine. What is to know about the substance, where it occurs, and whether it is safe to use will be learned in this article.

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What is sodium citrate? – Under the designation E 331, sodium citrate is getting used as an acidity regulator in the food industry.

Sodium citrate is a sodium salt of the citric acid. The salts of citric acid are also getting approved as acidity regulators for organic products.


A related video about “How to Make Sodium Citrate at Home for Cheesemaking” here to watch.

Video Credit: Gavin Webber


As the salt of citric acid, sodium citrate is a component of the energy metabolism and thus of every living cell. On average, the human body converts about two kilograms of citrate, as the citric acid salts are also getting called per day.

As a relevant intermediate product of carbohydrate metabolism, sodium citrate is getting decomposed into carbon dioxide/bicarbonate, which is getting incorporated into the metabolism.

Sodium pushes the pH value of urine into the alkaline range and balances out an excess of acid in the gastrointestinal tract.

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In the food industry, the additive also appears as E 331 in the nutritional information. It is getting produced by neutralizing caustic soda with citric acid.

The latter can be getting used to create mono-, di- and trisodium citrate, each of which has a different acid effect.

Genetically modified organisms may be getting used for production. From non-genetically modified sources, the use of organic food is also getting permitted.

You will learn here more about the areas of application, and sodium citrate uses.


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What is sodium citrate? – What sodium citrate is and where it occurs?

What sodium citrate is and where it occurs
What is sodium citrate? – What sodium citrate is and where it occurs? / Image by annca from Pixabay

Sodium citrate is getting traded as additive E 331; sodium citrate is getting found in many foods. It is a salt of citric acid.

An acid salt is getting formed when lye and acid are getting mixed; in this case, sodium hydroxide and citric acid.

It’s available as a white, crystalline powder and has a soapy taste when tasted pure.

  1. There are three different compounds of sodium citrate: Mono, di, and trisodium citrate. Each one has a different acid effect.
  2. Sodium citrate is an acidity regulator. These substances are added to food to keep its pH constant and improve the shelf life of the food.
  3. Sodium citrate also helps pectin to gel better. Pectin is mainly getting found in jam or marmalade.
  4. Due to its chemical structure, sodium citrate can form metal ions. It is an additional, preservative effect of sodium citrate, as it protects foods with unsaturated fatty acids (especially vegetable foods) from spoiling.
  5. It is also getting used as a melting salt for cheese.
  6. In the pharmaceutical and perfume industry, it is getting used as a preservative.
  7. In medicine, sodium citrate is getting used to restore the mineral balance after severe diarrhea. It is also effective against excessively acidic pH values in the stomach and small intestine.
  8. Genetically modified organisms can produce the substance.
  9. If these organisms are not getting used for production, sodium citrate may also be getting used in organic products.


In which foods are sodium citrate getting used?

In which foods are sodium citrate getting used
What is sodium citrate? – In which foods are sodium citrate getting used? / Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

There is no authorization restriction for the use as a food additive for E 331. Similarly, there is no maximum limit for sodium citrate about its addition to foodstuffs.

The acidity regulator E 331 is mainly getting used in the following foods: 

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E 331 is also getting used in substances such as dishwasher granules or silver corrosion inhibitors, in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

In the medical field, sodium citrate, combined with other salts, is used to restore the body’s water and mineral balance after severe diarrhea. Together with mineral salts, it is getting used to treat acidosis of the small intestine and stomach.

Sodium citrate is also used for intestinal flushing against constipation and to dissolve uric acid stones.


How dangerous is the substance E 331?

How dangerous is the substance E 331
What is sodium citrate? – How dangerous is the substance E 331? / Image by Antina Wolff from Pixabay

Here the all-clear is given: sodium citrate is entirely harmless to humans, as the body can process it without any problems.

  • It occurs, together with many other citrates, naturally in human metabolism. Approximately 2 kg of it is getting converted per day in the human body.
  • Maximum values are only getting set for goat milk (4g/l). 

E 331 is considered completely harmless. There is no quantity restriction for the use of the additive in food except for some products such as goat’s milk (4g/l). The only exceptions are untreated products and those that may not be getting changed due to legal regulations.

Attention allergy sufferers – The molds used in the production of citric acid can trigger allergies in sensitive people when using industrially produced citrates such as sodium citrate.

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Check out here “sodium citrate” related and different products on Amazon:

  • Pure Sodium Citrate Non-GMO Gluten-Free Vegan OU Kosher Certified – See On Amazon.
  • Sodium Citrate 2 lb. By Pure Organic Ingredients For Molecular Gastronomy Cooking and Recipes Mac and Cheese Nacho Cheese Salty and Sour Flavoring Seasoning Preservative and Antioxidant – See On Amazon.
  • Judee’s Sodium Citrate 5 lb Non-GMO Food Grade Easy to Dissolve Excellent for Creating Nacho and Queso Cheese Sauces Spherification and Molecular Gastronomy Cooking – See On Amazon.
  • It’s Just – Sodium Citrate Food Grade Non-GMO Cheese Sauce Emulsifier Spherification Preserve Foods 11oz – See On Amazon.

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