Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Phosphates

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.


SCOGS Report Number: 32
NTIS Accession Number: PB262651*
Year of Report: 1975
GRAS SubstanceID Code21 CFR Section
Ammonium phosphate dibasic7783-28-0184.1141b
Ammonium phosphate monobasic7722-76-1184.1141a
Calcium hexametaphosphate10102-76-8 
Calcium phosphate dibasic7757-93-9 
Calcium phosphate monobasic10031-30-8 
Calcium phosphate tribasic12167-74-7 
Calcium pyrophosphate7790-76-3182.8223
Phosphoric acid7664-38-2182.1073
Potassium phosphate dibasic7758-11-4 
Potassium phosphate monobasic7778-77-0 
Potassium phosphate tribasic7778-53-2 
Potassium polymetaphosphate7790-53-6 
Potassium pyrophosphate7320-34-5 
Potassium tripolyphosphate13845-36-8 
Sodium acid pyrophosphate7758-16-9182.1087
Sodium hexametaphosphate68915-31-1 
Sodium metaphosphate50813-16-6182.6769
Sodium phosphate dibasic10140-65-5 
Sodium phosphate monobasic7558-80-7 
Sodium phosphate tribasic10361-89-4 
Sodium pyrophosphate7722-88-5182.6760
Sodium tetrametaphosphate68915-31-1-2 
Sodium tetraphosphate14986-84-6 
Sodium trimetaphosphate7785-84-4 
Sodium tripolyphosphate7758-29-4182.1810

SCOGS Opinion:

The Select Committee recognizes many variables to be considered regarding the safety to the public of the current uses of phosphates in foods. These include: (a) the variety and different characteristics of phosphates and their scope of use; (b) the close metabolic interrelationships between vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus; and (c) the possible variations between different segments of the population in the level of phosphate consumed both in foods and in beverages. Better data are needed on the calcium and phosphorus intake and the Ca:P ration of the U.S. diet. It is probably that many adults in the U.S. ingest less than 800 mg of calcium and more than 800 mg of phosporus per day, which are the Recommended Dietary Allowances.

Although there is a difference of scientific opinion, it is the opinion of the Select Committee that the Ca:P ratio of the diet is important, especially if it varies substantially from 1:1 owing to the relatively high intake of phosphorus. Most of the evidence shows that in general a desirable Ca:P ration is between 2:1 and 1:1. Thus if the calcium intake is 800 mg per person per day the total phosphorus intake should not greatly exceed that amount. The fragmentary data available suggest that the typical Ca:P ratio in this country is lower than 1:1. Some estimates suggest it may be substantially lower. In laboratory animals and presumably in man, nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism and bone resorption may be induced when the diet furnishes an otherwise adequate amount of calcium but excessive levels of phosphorus.

None of the GRAS phosphates is intrinsically harmful and their use in foods does not present a hazard when the total amount of phosphorus ingested and the intakes of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and other nutrients are satisfactory. The current use of calcium phosphates in food processing is without harmful effects on the health of consumers and, in some instances, may be advantageous. The phosphorus supplied by GRAS phosphates, other than calcium phosphates, added to foods is low in relation to the total amount of phosphorus naturally present in the diet. However, the possibility that unreasonable increases in the usage of these phosphates in common foods would significantly lower the Ca:P ration and increase the total phosphorus intake for some segments of the population, must be considered in assessing the probability of a health hazard existing because of the ingestion of excessive levels of phosphorus. The Select Committee has no evidence that the use of any of these non-calcium phosphates as food ingredients at current levels is creating such a problem. However, if distortion of the Ca:P ratio should become of concern, this question should be accorded separate study.

The Select Committee has weighed the foregoing and concludes that:

There is no evidence in the available information on ammonium phosphate, dibasic; ammonium phosphate, monobasic; calcium hexametaphosphate; calcium phosphate, dibasic; calcium phosphate, monobasic; calcium phosphate, tribasic; calcium pyrophosphate; phosphoric acid; potassium phosphate, dibasic; potassium phosphate, monobasic; potassium phosphate, tribasic; potassium polymetaphosphate; potassium pyrophosphate; potassium tripolyphosphate; sodium acid pyrophosphate; sodium phosphate, dibasic; sodium phosphate, monobasic; sodium phosphate, tribasic; tetrasodium pyrophosphate; sodium tripolyphosphate; and straight-chain sodium polyphosphates (including sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium metaphosphate, and sodium tetraphosphate) that demonstrates or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current or 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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