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What foods have added citric acid?


Citric acid is a common food additive used as a preservative, flavoring agent, and acidity regulator. It is added to a variety of foods and beverages to help extend shelf life, add a tart, fruity flavor, and balance pH levels. While citric acid occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, much of the citric acid used in food production is synthetically manufactured. When reading food labels, citric acid is typically listed under the ingredients section.

Some common foods and beverages that contain added citric acid include:

Fruit Juices

Citric acid is often added to fruit juices to enhance tartness and flavor. Fruit juices with added citric acid may include:

Fruit Juice
Orange juice
Grapefruit juice
Pineapple juice
Apple juice
Cranberry juice

The tart, acidic taste provided by citric acid helps balance out the sweetness of fruit juices. It also enhances the fruity flavors and adds sourness. Additionally, citric acid helps stabilize and preserve fruit juices by lowering the pH.

Soft Drinks

Many popular carbonated soft drinks, including colas and lemon-lime sodas, contain added citric acid. The citric acid contributes to the tart, tangy flavor and helps provide a balanced pH. Some examples of soft drinks containing citric acid include:

Soft Drink
Coca Cola
Mountain Dew
Dr Pepper

In dark-colored sodas like colas, citric acid helps balance the sweetness from high fructose corn syrup or sugar. In clear sodas like lemon-lime drinks, it provides the characteristic sour taste expected from citrus flavors. The acidity also acts as a preservative.


Many sour and fruity candy varieties utilize citric acid to provide tartness and an intense sour flavor. Popular candies containing citric acid include:

Sour Patch Kids
Sour Skittles
Shock Tarts

The pure, concentrated sour taste of citric acid is what gives these candies their intense tartness. Citric acid stimulates the sour taste receptors on the tongue, making your mouth pucker. It adds a bold, fruity acidity to balance the sweetness.

Jams and Jellies

To help sharpen flavor, increase tartness, and act as a preservative, citric acid is often added to fruit jams, jellies, and marmalades. Some jams and jellies containing citric acid include:

Strawberry jam/jelly
Raspberry jam/jelly
Orange marmalade
Lemon curd
Grape jelly

The extra acidity gives these spreads a more intense fruit flavor. Citric acid also helps lower the pH to prevent microbe and mold growth during storage.

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Many frozen fruits and vegetables have citric acid added to help preserve color, texture, and flavor. Citric acid stops oxidation that can cause browning. Some frozen produce with citric acid includes:

Frozen Produce
Green beans

The acidity helps frozen fruits and veggies retain bright colors and firm, crunchy textures rather than becoming mushy or browned. It inhibits enzyme activity that can lead to quality deterioration during frozen storage.

Processed Meats

Citric acid is sometimes added to prepared and processed meats as a preservative. It helps to extend the shelf life by preventing bacterial contamination. Some processed meats containing citric acid may include:

Processed Meat
Sliced deli meats
Hot dogs
Canned tuna
Frozen burger patties

The acidic pH environment created by citric acid inhibits the growth of bacteria like E. coli and Listeria. This helps processed meats stay fresher longer.

Cheese and Yogurt

In cheese and yogurt production, citric acid may be used to acidify milk. Acidification helps achieve the proper texture and tartness. Examples of dairy products with citric acid include:

Dairy Product
Cottage cheese
Cream cheese
Sour cream
Greek yogurt

The citric acid helps provide a tangy, acidic taste in these dairy products. It also aids in thickening and food safety.

Baked Goods

As a leavening agent, citric acid reacts with baking soda to help baked goods rise. The carbon dioxide released causes an increase in volume. Baked goods with citric acid may include:

Baked Good

In addition to providing lift, citric acid also enhances flavor with its tart, acidic taste. It helps give a tangy boost to sweets like lemon poppyseed muffins or cranberry orange scones.

Icing and Frosting

Powdered citric acid is sometimes added to sugary icings and frostings to balance sweetness and add tartness. Icings with citric acid may include:

Cream cheese

The sharp acidity helps cut through the rich sweetness of frostings and icing. It adds a burst of fruity tartness.

Gelatin Desserts

Citric acid is sometimes used to help set and stabilize gelatin desserts like Jell-O. The acidity causes the gelatin proteins to denature and form a solid gel. Gelatin desserts with citric acid include:

Gelatin Dessert
Gummy candy
Panna cotta

In gel food, citric acid allows gelatin to work effectively as a gelling agent. It provides just the right level of acidity.

Tomato Products

In canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta sauce, and ketchup, citric acid helps provide a balanced flavor. Tomato products containing citric acid include:

Tomato Product
Pasta sauce
Pizza sauce
Canned tomatoes
Tomato soup

The citric acid enhances the perception of fresh tomato flavor. It also helps stabilize and preserve these products by lowering pH.

Powdered Drink Mixes

Many powdered drink mixes contain citric acid, which helps impart a tart, fruity taste. Popular powdered drinks with citric acid include:

Powdered Drink
Iced tea mix
Fruit punch
Sports drinks

When used in powdered beverage mixes, citric acid provides an instant burst of tangy flavor when the powder is dissolved in water.

Cleaning and Beauty Products

Citric acid is included in some cleaning and beauty products to help adjust the acidity. Products containing citric acid include:

Bathroom cleaners
Household cleaners
Hair products
Skin care products
Nail polish

In cleaners, citric acid helps remove mineral deposits, soap scum, and hard water stains. In beauty products, it balances pH and stabilizes formulas.


Citric acid is one of the most widely used food additives due to its multitude of functions. As an acid, it imparts tartness, enhances fruit flavors, helps preserve foods and beverages, serves as a leavening agent, and stabilizes products. It is added to a huge range of fruits, vegetables, drinks, candies, dairy, meats, baked goods, and more. Checking the ingredient list on a food label will indicate if citric acid has been used. While it is safe for most people in small amounts, those with sensitivities should take note of foods containing citric acid. When used properly, this common additive can help improve the quality, safety, and flavor of many everyday food items.