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Label Able: Tricalcium Phosphate

I like to read food labels; I find them fascinating, especially when the list of ingredients seems long enough to contain a plot character development. As a general rule, I try to steer clear of foods made with ingredients that have lengthy confusing names. When researching for the yogurt breakdown, I saw tricalcium phosphate on the Dannon yogurt label. The name reminded me of sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, but I was fairly certain these two ingredients are not related at all.

I did a little poking around and found that tricalcium phosphate is calcium salt of citric acid. It's added to foods to act as a firming or anti-caking agent, or as an acidity regulator. Companies also add it to their products to increase the calcium content (Dannon told me this when I phoned them). That's why calcium supplements sometimes contain tricalcium phosphate as well. You may find this ingredient in foods such as dairy products, wine, carbonated beverages, powdered spices, candy and jams. Reduced fat liquid foods may also contain this ingredient, to add smoothness and an opaque color.

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The funny thing is, Dannon Fruit Blends Yogurt (which contains tricalcium phosphate) has 20 percent calcium, and Stonyfield Farms Fat Free Yogurt (which doesn't contain this ingredient), has 30 percent calcium. If tricalcium phosphate is being added to increase the amount of calcium, then shouldn't Dannon have more? It just doesn't make sense. Also, it seems that tricalcium phosphate is used in a lot of processed foods that contain some not-so-healthy ingredients (what's with the red 40 and high fructose corn syrup in the Dannon yogurt?). So for that reason, I think I'll stick to foods made with actual food ingredients.

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