The other day, I was reading the ingredients on some pickles and I saw “calcium chloride.” In my experience, most chemical ingredient names like this are vegan, but I still got curious about what it actually is.
Is calcium chloride vegan? Calcium chloride is a vegan ingredient. It is usually produced through the purification of brine. It can also be produced from limestone. Whichever method is used, it contains no animal byproducts.
Below I’ll explain more so you can understand what calcium chloride actually is, how it’s made, and whether it’s healthy and safe to eat!
What Is Calcium Chloride?
Calcium chloride is a food additive.
Food additives are classified into colorants, antioxidants, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other chemicals. Of the most common food additives are MSG (monosodium glutamate), sodium nitrite, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and of course, the subject of today’s article: calcium chloride.
Calcium Chloride is specifically an inorganic salt. Every calcium atom in calcium chloride is bonded to two chlorine atoms. It’s crystalline at room temperature.
How Calcium Chloride Is Produced
There are 3 ways to produce calcium chloride:
- from natural brines as a byproduct of synthetic soda ash production
- from hydrochloric acid
- from limestone.
Food grade calcium chloride in most countries needs to be halal, kosher, and in possession of certain certifications (Certificate of Analysis and Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals). It should also be of as high purity as possible.
Vegan Foods Containing Calcium Chloride
As a firming agent, calcium chloride is used for canned vegetables, infusing soybean curds into tofu, and in producing faux caviar. In water and in Sports drinks, it’s used as an electrolyte.
Here are some of the common vegan foods which typically contain calcium chloride:
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Canned beans
- Sports drinks
- Soft drinks
Health Benefits of Calcium Chloride?
Calcium chloride tastes like table salt, but with additional benefits of not increasing the sodium content and, instead, increasing the calcium content.
Its uncommonness stems from its higher salinity than table salt. In apples, calcium chloride can increase vitamin C content, and in potatoes, it reduces oil consumption while frying. This makes it better for your cholesterol.
Health Risks of Calcium Chloride?
Calcium chloride’s dosage in food poses minimal threat to human health. But, if used alternatively to table salt, care must be taken, as it can increase blood pressure.
Some people can also have allergic reactions to calcium chloride and calcium supplements, so if you have an adverse reaction when consuming it, consult a physician.
Calcium chloride is labeled by the FDA as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe). It is also allowed in the European Union as a firming and an anti-caking agent with the number E509.
Why Is Calcium Chloride Not Allowed in Organic Crop Production?
Calcium chloride is also used in the process of growing some plants. Cork spot and bitter pit in apples are no longer a problem thanks to spraying them in calcium chloride during the late growing season.
But the use of calcium chloride in organic crop production is prohibited by the U.S. National Organic Program.
Because of its high solubility in water, calcium chloride can easily be washed off into rivers during heavy rains. This can cause a disruption in the water pH, potentially harming fish and marine animals.
Uses of Calcium Chloride in the Nutrition Industry
- Pre-harvest treatments of crops to increase shelf life and eradicate potential decay.
- Post-harvest treatments of fruits and vegetables to preserve freshness and maintain firmness.
- Enhancing the flavor of pickle brines without increasing sodium content—and the same for water (statistics show that people prefer water that resembles salty mineral water)
- Cheesemaking: It helps create a more consistent setting curd, giving more control to cheesemakers.
- Brewing: Corrects mineral levels and pH of the brewing water (mash) for beer.
- Molecular Gastronomy-Spherification: Calcium chloride is combined with sodium alginate. This is used to make faux caviar with fruit juices.
- It is also used for meat tenderization.
Calcium Chloride = 100% Vegan
As a food additive and ingredient, calcium chloride has no relation with animals whatsoever. Some foods that contain calcium chloride may not be vegan, but even in those cases, calcium chloride itself is not the problem ingredient. Calcium chloride is vegan.
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