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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Sodium hydroxide

The GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database allows access to opinions and conclusions from 115 SCOGS reports published between 1972-1980 on the safety of over 370 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) food substances. The GRAS ingredient reviews were conducted by the Select Committee in response to a 1969 White House directive by President Richard M. Nixon.

Sodium hydroxide

  • SCOGS-Report Number: 85*
  • Type Of Conclusion: 1
  • ID Code: 1310-73-2
  • Year: 1976
  • 21 CFR Section: 184.1763

SCOGS Opinion:

The Select Committee has found no data suggesting that the use of sodium or potassium hydroxides, as currently practiced in food processing, is hazardous to consumers. The corrosive effect of ingestion of large amounts of strong alkalis such as sodium and potassium hydroxides has been amply demonstrated. However, these alkalis are not present as such in foods as consumed. The small amounts added for pH adjustment during food processing react rapidly with food acids to form neutral salts. Moreover, any free alkali that might be present in food, either from direct addition or from migration from packaging materials, is rapidly converted to neutral salts in the stomach. The amounts of sodium and potassium hydroxide used in food processing contribute only 2 to 5 percent of the total sodium and potassium intake from all dietary sources. Accordingly, these alkais, as now used in food processing, do not add significantly to the usual dietary load of sodium and potassium.

In light of the foregoing, and the information elsewhere in this report, the Select Committee concludes that: There is no evidence in the available information on potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public, when they are used at levels that are now current or that might reasonably be expected in the future.

There is no evidence in the available information on sodium hydroxide that demonstrates, or suggests, reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when it is used as an ingredient of food packaging materials in the manner now practiced or that might reasonably be expected in the future.

*Complete reports containing details of the safety studies that formed the basis of the opinions and conclusions and are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 605-6000.