Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Malic acid

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.

Malic acid, L-malic acid

SCOGS Report Number: 56
NTIS Accession Number: PB262662*
Year of Report: 1975
GRAS SubstanceID Code

21 CFR Section

Malic acid (DL-malic acid)6915-15-7184.1069
L-malic acid97-67-6184.1069

SCOGS Opinion:

In view of the natural occurrence of L-malic acid in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and certain other foods, its important role in intermediary metabolism as a component of the Krebs cycle, rather detailed knowledge of its formation and metabolism in animals and plants, its relatively low toxicity when given orally to animals, and its specialized uses in foods and nonalcoholic beverages as an acidulant or flavoring agent, there is no scientific basis for suspecting that the amounts of L-malic acid now added to foods would be hazardous. There is no indication that malic acid is added to any foods specifically designed for infant feeding.

The scientific literature is less satisfactory on D-malic acid, the unnatural isomer, and a co-constituent of the racemic DL-malic acid, which is the form now used as a food additive. Very little is known about the metabolism, absorption, excretion, and biological effects of D-malic acid, or whether animal species differ in the way they can utilize and tolerate this compound. DL-malic acid was employed in several of the toxicological, reproductive, and teratological studies; results suggests that D-malic acid as a component of DL-malic acid, is not likely to have adverse effects. Some concern has been expressed about the ability of young infants to metabolize D-malic acid, but fortunately, in current practice, this dose not pose a problem since DL-malic acid is not now added to infant foods.

The Select Committee has weighed the foregoing and concludes:

For individuals beyond the age of infancy, there is no evidence in the available information on L-malic acid and DL-malic acid that demosntrates 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.

*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.

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