Preservation of food is something humans have had to do for generations. This is the way we prevent food from deteriorating due to microorganisms, light, heat or oxidation so that it lasts longer. In ancient times salt was the primary preserving agent. The process of smoking meat also originated from the need to prolong its storage time before it becomes harmful for human consumption.
In modern times we use preserving agents to fulfil the same role. Sulphite compounds, nitrates and certain acids and their salts are all used for various applications. Some preservatives are found naturally in the foods we eat, while others are manufactured and added during food processing.
Potassium also occurs naturally in foods and often in the form of potassium citrate. Prunes, avocados, beans and squash are all high potassium content foods. However, potassium citrate is also manufactured as an additive for use in food processing. It acts as a pH buffer, which contributes to its use as a preservative.
How potassium citrate is made
Citric acid is first produced using a fermentation process. After fermentation, further processing is required to separate unwanted by-products as well as purify the citric acid itself. Adding potassium hydroxide to citric acid results in the formation of potassium citrate crystals. These crystals are separated from the solution for use as a food additive.
Potassium citrate as a food preserver
The primary reason for adding potassium citrate as a food preservative is to have a buffer to control pH. It has a natural pH between 7.5 and 9 depending on the concentration. Keeping the pH in this alkaline state can inhibit the function of certain enzymes and preserve food for longer.
Potassium citrate also affects the taste of foods and soft drinks. The sour taste of potassium citrate tends to mask some of the acidity of carbonated soft drinks. It gives a more balanced tart flavour. This is even more important in diet sodas, as their sugar replacements often have a less enjoyable flavour on their own.
Some processed dairy products like cheese require emulsifier additives to keep all the individual components from separating. Potassium citrate is a good emulsifier. It gives the cheese a consistent texture and appearance making it appealing to the consumer.
Other uses of potassium citrate
Potassium citrate is an important supplement for human health. It is a common treatment for the prevention of kidney stones. Potassium citrate increases the pH of urine and also crystallises some salts that are known to form kidney stones. These include calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate and uric acid. Potassium citrate therefore prevents urine saturation, which can easily occur with a high protein diet.
Another positive effect of potassium on the human body is that it balances the sodium in the body. The greater the intake of potassium, the more sodium is released from the body in urine. Reduction in sodium results in lower blood pressure and therefore improves overall health.
Studies have also shown that potassium citrate in combination with putrescine sprays have a positive effect on the Ahmat Date Palm. This mixture, when sprayed at the time of blooming improves the date production and quality. All the measured parameters showed improvements. For example, researchers measured higher fruit sets, greater fruit retention and larger bunch weight. Even the quality of individual dates showed noticeable increases in fruit length, diameter and pulp/seed ratio.
Vynova is a leading European supplier of potassium derivatives with manufacturing sites in Belgium and France. Our potassium derivatives are used in numerous applications that benefit health and improve our quality of life – like potassium citrate. Find out more about our potassium derivatives portfolio or contact one of our sales representatives here.