Bring up the topic of black mold and you will see fear and disgust on people’s faces. Black mold is a particularly insidious form of mold that is very toxic to humans and difficult to eradicate from homes.
Did you know that you might be eating it every day?
Many food products contain citric acid, a harmless sounding ingredient. It is widely used as a preservative to extend shelf life and prevent spoiling. It also enhances savory flavors with it’s acidic and slightly sour taste, and induces cravings by intensifying the other flavors in the food.
Technically, citric acid is a form of vitamin C, so it seems innocuous enough – perhaps even making one imagine citrus fruit and fresh orchards as sources for this chemical.
Unfortunately, the actual picture behind citric acid is a little grimmer and darker. Although citric acid is a naturally occurring substance found in citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruit, in reality, the citric acid used as a food additive is a hidden genetically modified (GMO) ingredient manufactured using the mold Aspergillus niger that feeds on corn syrup and glucose. It has been known to set off allergenic responses for sensitive consumers.
This process was discovered in the early 1900s by food chemist James Currie and to this day most manufactured citric acid is made through the same method of fermenting mold with GMO corn.
The process is a complicated, technical and often secretive and competitive one, beginning with highly processed corn syrup, moving on to the fermentation process using a genetically modified strain of Aspergillus niger (black mold), which causes the catabolism of glucose sugar by the mold, which then results in secretion of citric acid into the culture broth.
While the FDA has labelled manufactured citric acid as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), it may be a good idea to start reading your food labels and finding out more about the potential dangers of this “harmless” food ingredient.