A common food, pharmaceutical and cleaning product additive, citric acid is a weak, water-soluble organic acid naturally found in many citrus fruits, such as lemons and limes. It was first discovered by the 8th century Arabic chemist Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan (also known as Geben), but not purified to its current form until the 18th century.
Citric acid powder is commonly added to both carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks as a flavoring agent, adding a tart taste to the beverage, and as a preservative due to its anti-microbial properties. It is added to candy to add a tart flavor, but also to stabilize the sugars and enhance texture (citric acid helps give candies a gel-like consistency). Citric acid is used in the production of jams and jellies to help control the food's pH level, assisting in its consistency and shelf life. It can also be found in processed cheese to stabilize and emulsify the oil and water content of the cheese and keep it from separating.
Citric acid powder can add flavor to medicine preparations, masking the taste of the chemical components. It is also added as an emulsifier, keeping ingredients in liquid preparations from separating. The most common use of citric acid powder in is in combinations with bicarbonates to create an effervescent, fizzing effect.
Household and Industrial Uses
Citric acid powder is added to many detergent products, such as laundry soap and shampoo, as well as industrial strength products, to maintain an alkaline pH, which helps the surfactants--cleansers--work more effectively. The citric acid powder is easy to rinse away with the cleanser, as it is both water soluble and biodegradable.