Sodium Diacetate: A Controversial Food Additive Under Scrutiny

Learn about the drawbacks of Sodium Diacetate

Sodium diacetate is a food additive that is used as a preservative and flavor enhancer. It is increasingly commonly found in chips, including some made by Frito-Lay. However, the use of sodium diacetate in chips has raised concerns about its potential health risks. `

As consumers become more health-conscious, there is a growing demand for alternatives to sodium diacetate. Some are responding to this trend by switching to cleaner, more natural foods, like chips from Jackson's. 

In this article, we will explore the importance of understanding the ingredients in our food so we can make informed choices about our health. We will also discuss the potential risks of sodium diacetate and how to make informed choices about the foods you eat.

What Exactly Is Sodium Diacetate?

Sodium diacetate is made up of sodium acetate and acetic acid, and it is commonly used in processed foods to extend their shelf life and enhance their flavor.

Sodium diacetate has a tangy, vinegary taste and is used in foods such as chips, pretzels, and savory baked goods. It can also help to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, which can spoil food.

However, there are some potential health concerns associated with sodium diacetate. It is an acidic compound, so it can contribute to raising the acidity of food. This can be bad for people with sensitive stomachs. Additionally, sodium diacetate is high in sodium, which can be a concern for people who are trying to control their blood pressure.

How is Sodium Diacetate Made?

Sodium diacetate is made by combining acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate in a controlled chemical process. This reaction produces sodium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide. The sodium acetate is then neutralized with acetic anhydride to form sodium diacetate crystals. The final product is dried and ground into a fine powder or left in crystal form.

Sodium diacetate is generally considered safe when used in moderation. However, some people may be sensitive to the acidity of sodium diacetate. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to avoid foods that contain sodium diacetate.

Uses for Sodium Diacetate outside the food industry 

Sodium Diacetate finds application in various industries due to its preservative and acidity-regulating properties. Here are the ways sodium diacetate is used in different industries:


Sodium diacetate can be used as a component in pesticide formulations due to its ability to lower pH levels. Some pesticides require specific pH conditions to be effective, and sodium diacetate can help achieve these conditions, enhancing the pesticide's potency.

It's important to note that while sodium diacetate has various applications, its use is most prevalent in the food industry as a preservative and flavor enhancer. 

Pharmaceutical Industry

In pharmaceuticals, sodium diacetate can be used as a pH-modifying agent in certain formulations. Controlling the pH level is crucial for the stability and efficacy of certain medications. Additionally, its antimicrobial properties can aid in preserving pharmaceutical products and preventing microbial contamination.

Cosmetic Industry

Sodium diacetate is occasionally used in cosmetic products as a pH adjuster or buffering agent. It can help stabilize the pH of formulations, ensuring they remain within the desired range for optimal effectiveness and skin compatibility.

Possible Side Effects of Sodium Diacetate

Sodium Diacetate, when consumed in moderate amounts as part of processed foods, is generally considered safe for the majority of the population. However, like many food additives, there are potential risks and side effects associated with its excessive consumption or sensitivity in certain individuals:

Sodium Content

Sodium diacetate contains sodium, which can contribute to high sodium intake if consumed excessively. High sodium intake is linked to issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Individuals with hypertension or other cardiovascular concerns should be cautious of their sodium intake, including from sources like sodium diacetate.

Allergic Reactions

Some individuals could potentially have allergies to components of sodium diacetate. While allergies to this compound are rare, any adverse reactions should be taken seriously.

Digestive Discomfort

Excessive consumption of foods containing sodium diacetate could potentially lead to digestive discomfort, including bloating, gas, and stomach upset. This is more likely to occur if consumed in large quantities.

Impact on Beneficial Gut Bacteria

High levels of sodium diacetate might influence the balance of gut bacteria, potentially affecting overall gut health.

Find Jackson's in a store near you (Costco, Wholefoods). Our chips are vegan, keto and paleo.

Reading Food Labels: Common Names of Sodium Diacetate  

Sodium Diacetate is commonly known by a few names and is available in various forms. Here are the common names and forms of sodium diacetate:

Sodium Diacetate

This is the chemical name of the compound itself. It is a white crystalline powder with a slightly vinegary aroma. Sodium diacetate is a sodium salt of acetic acid and is used for its preservative and flavor-enhancing properties in processed foods.

Acetic Acid Sodium Salt

This name describes its composition – a combination of acetic acid (the component responsible for the vinegary taste) and sodium. It's available in the form of small crystals or a powder.

Sour Salt

Sodium diacetate is sometimes colloquially referred to as "sour salt" due to its tangy and slightly acidic taste. This term can be found on ingredient lists of certain food products.


In the European Union, sodium diacetate is assigned the food additive code E262. This code is used to indicate the use of sodium diacetate as a food preservative and acidity regulator.

Powder or Crystals

Sodium diacetate is most commonly available as a fine white powder or small crystals. These forms make it easy to incorporate into food products during processing.

Food Additive

It's crucial to note that sodium diacetate is often listed on ingredient labels simply as a "food additive" or "preservative." This may not directly indicate its presence, but it's commonly used in this capacity.

As you encounter processed foods, keep an eye out for these terms on ingredient labels, and be aware that sodium diacetate can serve multiple purposes, from extending shelf life to enhancing flavors.

How to avoid unhealthy additives

Avoiding unhealthy additives in your diet is a key step towards maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Here are five strategies to help you steer clear of these additives:

Read Ingredient Labels

The most effective way to avoid unhealthy additives is by reading ingredient labels diligently. Look for terms like "artificial flavors," "artificial colors," "high-fructose corn syrup," "partially hydrogenated oils," and other unfamiliar chemical-sounding names. Opt for products with simpler, natural ingredient lists.

Choose Whole Foods

Whole, unprocessed foods are generally free from the additives that processed foods contain. Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and legumes are all great choices. Preparing meals from scratch allows you to have more control over what goes into your food.

Select Organic Options

Organic foods are often produced without synthetic additives, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms. Choosing organic products can be a way to reduce exposure to potentially harmful additives.

Choose Lower Sodium Foods

If you are trying to reduce your sodium intake, Jackson's Kettle-cooked Unsalted Sweet Potato Chips is a good snack option. They are made with just two ingredients: heirloom sweet potatoes and premium coconut oil. This simple ingredient list is a major departure from the long list of ingredients found in many processed foods.

Research Additives

Educate yourself about specific additives that you want to avoid. Online resources, books, and reputable health websites can provide information on the effects of various additives. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions while shopping.

Remember that moderation is key. While it's important to avoid unhealthy additives, it's also crucial not to become overly restrictive. Some additives are harmless in small amounts, and aiming for a balanced and varied diet is the best approach to overall health.

The Takeaway 

Our exploration of sodium diacetate has shown that food additives can play a variety of roles, but it is important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with their consumption. As consumers demand cleaner, more natural ingredients, brands are responding by creating products with simpler ingredient lists such as Jackson’s Unsalted Kettle Chips. These chips are free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. This commitment to transparency and health-consciousness is indicative of the future of the food industry. Consumers and manufacturers alike are seeking to create products that are both delicious and aligned with modern dietary preferences, such as vegan and gluten-free diets.

Shop Jackson's gluten-free, kosher, vegan and keto kettle-cooked chips online.