Is baking powder safe to eat? (3+ possible risks)
In this article, we will discuss whether baking powder is safe to eat, what is the composition of baking powder and how can you safely consume baking powder. Baking powder is a food additive and is usually not consumed separately but as a leavening agent for baked goods.
Is baking powder safe to eat?
Yes, baking powder is safe to eat when not overconsumed. Baking powder is found in many foods and consumed in low quantities as a leavening agent in cakes, pancakes and biscuits (1).
However, the excessive ingestion of baking powder can lead to negative effects on health, especially when it contains aluminium salts in its composition.
In addition, some elements in baking powder may be of concern when ingested in excessive amounts, such as phosphates and sodium (5, 6).
When is baking powder not safe to eat?
Baking powder is not safe to eat in the following situations:
- Baking powder may contain aluminium salts in its composition. The excessive ingestion of aluminium in the long term is considered toxic to bones and the nervous system and a high concentration of this metal in the brain is related to a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (1).
- Baking powder can contain nickel as a contaminant. The intake of an excessive quantity of nickel may be toxic. Possible symptoms of nickel intoxication are nausea and vomiting, while late symptoms are dyspnea, irregular heart rate and sweating (2).
It is unknown if the ingestion of a high quantity of products added with baking powder containing aluminium salts, such as aluminium phosphate, can lead to poisoning in humans. However, it is possible, as revealed in animal tests (1).
Animals fed for four months with bread containing high amounts of aluminium phosphate as a leavening agent presented lesions in the intestinal cells, in addition to diarrhoea and sickness (1).
Are aluminium-free baking powder safe to eat?
Yes, aluminium-free baking powders are safe to eat and are less harmful, as they do not contain aluminium.
However, the ingestion of baking powder containing sodium contributes to the daily intake of sodium and the ingestion of baking powder containing phosphates increases the daily intake of phosphates.
Excessive sodium in the diet can have negative effects on health, including high blood pressure (5). The ingestion of phosphates in excess can lead to renal dysfunction (6).
What is the composition of baking powder?
The composition of baking powder is mainly of different reacting salts and starch. Baking powder can be single or double-acting and therefore have different compositions (3).
Aluminium-free baking powder is usually composed of starch as a main inert compound and salts containing sodium or calcium. The starch acts as a vehicle for the salts but does not react.
Some examples of salts that are found in baking powders are sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), anhydrous monocalcium phosphate and aluminium phosphate (1, 3, 4).
How to safely consume baking powder?
To safely consume baking powder, do not use it in excess, limiting its addition to the recommended amount for producing cakes and biscuits. The quantity used in each recipe varies and is about 5 % of the total weight (7).
However, exceeding the amount of baking powder in a recipe results in a high amount of residues of unreacted baking powder in the product, which can be harmful to the flavour of the product and also to health (1, 4).
In this article, we discussed the possible effects of consuming baking powder in an excessive amount. Baking powder is safe to eat, if not overconsumed. To safely consume baking powder, add baking powder according to the recipe.
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