Sodium Acetate in Food & Beverage Products

Sodium acetate is a food additive that eliminates unwanted changes in the taste, color, and texture of food products, stabilizing the food against loss of quality.
5 min read

Sodium acetate is the salt form of acetic acid. It’s a multipurpose additive commonly used in the food and beverage industry as a flavoring agent, preservative, pH control agent, sequestrant, and buffering agent.

What is Sodium Acetate?

Sodium acetate is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaCH3CO2, abbreviated as NaOAc. It is a salt composed of sodium cations (Na+) and acetate anions (CH3CO2-). It can also be called “dry acetic acid” as it is composed of free acetic acid in a solid form (39 to 41%). The crystal structure of anhydrous sodium acetate has been described as alternating sodium-carboxylate and methyl group layers.  

Chemical structure of Sodium Acetate.

Source: Wikipedia

How is Sodium Acetate Produced?

Sodium acetate is the salt of acetic acid. It is formed by the reaction of acetic acid with sodium carbonate, an exothermic reaction that generates heat that evaporates the moisture produced. 

Use of Sodium Acetate in Food & Beverage Products

Sodium acetate eliminates unwanted changes in food products’ taste, color, and texture. It complexes with unwanted metal ions, stabilizing the food against loss of quality. It also softens water used for production in the food industry. 

Applications in Food & Beverage Products

Sodium acetate is a multipurpose food additive. Its functions include the following:

Flavoring AgentAdds a slightly salty and sour flavor to food
PreservativePreserves food by inhibiting the growth of bacteria
Acidity Regulator (pH control Agent)Creates a slight increase in the pH
SequestrantUsed to sequester polyvalent metal ions
Buffering AgentPrevents the pH of a solution from changing drastically through interactions with acids or bases

Product Examples

ConvenienceProcessed Cereals, Soup Mixes, Marinades, Steamed Fish & Vegetables
Savory FoodsCurries, Curry Mixes, Sauces
ConfectioneryJams, Jelly, Marmalades
Processed FoodsCroquette, Hamburger Patty, Meatball, Dumpling

Properties of Sodium Acetate

Physical FormPowder
ColorWhite to colorless
OdorVinegar (acetic acid) odor
Storage Temperature & ConditionsStore in a dry place, separated from strong acids and strong oxidants.
AppearanceWhite deliquescent powder
pH (1 % Aqueous )8.0 – 9.5
Density @ 20°C1.528 g/cm3
Molar Mass82.034 g·mol−1
Melting Point324 °C (anhydrous)
Refractive Index1.464
Solubility @ 20°CAnhydrous: 123.3 g/100 mL & Trihydrate: 46.4 g/100 mL

Typical Formulations


Here is an example of a bread formulation table with sodium acetate along with the weight of ingredients: 

Wheat Flour400 g
Shortening16 g
Yeast8 g
Common Salt7.2 g
Sugar16 g
Fermentation Accelerator0.8 g
Sodium Acetate0.3 %
Fumaric Acid (Coated)0.2 %

Source: Google Patents 

Low Methyl Pectin Jelly

Here is an example of a pectin jelly formulation table with sodium acetate along with the weight of ingredients: 

Commercial Low Methyl Pectin 6.7 g
Cane Sugar80 g
Distilled Water240 g
Vanilla Flavoring1 ml
Yellow Color0.7 ml
Sodium Acetate (1% Aqueous)7 ml (to adjust the pH to 4.0)

Source: Google Patents 

Sodium Acetate Formulation Considerations

Physical FormsPowder
StabilityHeat: Stable until around 380 °CpH: StableOxidation: Stable
Sensory AttributesSlightly sour to salty taste
Dosage0.05-0.5 or more, depending on the application

Safety & Regulatory Considerations

FDA InformationSodium acetate is regulated as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is allowed as a food additive in the US and may be found in certain food items as a flavoring agent, adjuvant, and pH control agent.
EU Information Sodium acetate is listed as a permitted food additive by the EU under number E 262. It is allowed to be used in the following categories at level “quantum satis:” 4.2.3: Canned or bottled fruit and vegetables, 7.1.1: Bread, 7.1.2: Pain courant francais, 13.1.3: Processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants, 8.2: Meat preparations

Safety & Toxicity of Sodium Acetate

Sodium acetate is irritating to the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract. It may be harmful by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. It may cause eye, skin, or respiratory system irritation. The toxicological properties of this compound have yet to be fully evaluated. 

Oral LD50 for rats was reported to be 3530mg/kg, a significantly high number. For this reason, sodium acetate is less likely to be hazardous for human beings, provided the intake is within range

Identification Numbers

Chemical NameSodium acetate
CAS Number127-09-3
EC Number204-823-8
E Number (Food Additive)E 262
INS No. (Food Additive)INS 262
FEMA Number3024

Acceptable Limits or Maximum Usage

  • The ADI for sodium acetate is set to “not limited” by the WHO
  • The maximum usage level of sodium acetate in the food industry per the FDA is as follows:
CategoryMaximum Usage (%)
Breakfast Cereals0.007
Fats & Oils0.5
Grain Products & Pasta0.6
Hard Candy0.15
Jams & Jellies0.12
Soft Candy0.2
Soups & Soup Mixes0.05
Sweet Sauces0.05

Fun Facts About Sodium Acetate

  • Sodium acetate can form beautiful crystals known as “hot ice” when a supersaturated solution is cooled. These crystals can be formed by heating a solution of sodium acetate trihydrate and then allowing it to cool slowly. 
  • Sodium acetate is used in commercial hand warmers as it can generate heat when it undergoes a phase change from a supersaturated solution to a solid.

Additional Resources