Bacteria, including some bacteria in a person’s gut, make lactic acid during fermentation. Manufacturers add lactic acid to food to extend its shelf life, although in some foods, it occurs naturally.

Moreover, food manufacturers add lactic acid to food to enhance flavor. It also acts as a gelling agent. Gelling agents thicken and stabilize foods such as jellies and other desserts.

The article will discuss what lactic acid is and why manufacturers add it to food.

A close up of a person holding an open jar containing kimchi that may contain lactic acid.Share on Pinterest
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Lactic acid is a natural preservative found in several foods, including pickled vegetables, yogurt, and baked goods. It is a cheap and minimally processed preservative.

Lactobacillus and Streptococcus cultures produce lactic acid through fermentation. The bacteria break down sugar to extract energy and produce lactic acid as a byproduct.

Lactic acid helps regulate pH levels and prevents the growth of microorganisms, extending shelf life.

The primary reason food manufacturers add lactic acid to food is due to its antimicrobial properties and ability to extend shelf life. It also enhances flavor.

Furthermore, food manufacturers use lactic acid in food, because it is a:

  • natural additive
  • solvent
  • curing agent
  • gelling agent
  • food carrier
  • discoloration inhibitor

The FDA approve the use of lactic acid in most foods. However, this does not apply to infant formulas or foods.

The Vegetarian Resource Group state that food manufacturers tend to use beet sugar or corn starch when cultivating lactic acid, which means it is vegan.

Vegan foods that contain lactic acid include:

  • pickled vegetables
  • fermented soy products
  • cereals
  • legumes

Some common foods that contain high levels of lactic acid and lactic acid-producing bacteria include:

Bacteria that produce lactic acid — for example, Lactobacillus — are a type of probiotic.

Learn more about fermented foods that are high in probiotics here.

Lactic acid and the bacteria that produce it may offer some health benefits, such as:

Researchers found lactic acid-producing bacteria could provide several health benefits. For example, they may:

Lactic acid is a naturally occurring preservative that manufacturers add to some food products. Foods such as pickled vegetables and yogurt contain lactic acid.

Lactic acid and the bacteria that produce it may have numerous health benefits. For instance, they may boost the immune system and help protect the body against certain types of cancer.

The bacteria that produce lactic acid are a type of probiotic. Probiotics have several health benefits, including improving gut health.