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Trisodium phosphate in my Trader Joe's O's cereal- why?

I feed my toddler Trader Joe's O's practically every morning. I was looking thru the ingredient list and there's an ingredient called trisodium phosphate. after doing a general search it's a detergent and food filler. why is it my cereal and is it really necessary?

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  1. "it has been found that approximately two-thirds of the phosphorus in grains is stored in the form of phytate, a salt of phytic acid, which is not bioavailable in humans. Therefore, mineral fortification is needed to deliver bioavailable nutrients."


    1. I have always known TSP as a high strength cleaner, that works very efficently, removing grease and grime from concrete floors. Now I see it is used extensively in the baking industry, cheese making and commercial production of grain products, (pasta, cereal, etc.). I guess there is "Food Grade" TSP too.!!!!!!!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ospreycove

        TSP is also a common chemical added to industrial boilers to prevent scale build up. YUM!!!

      2. typo! i meant to say- "why is it IN my cereal...."

        1. A reply from General Mills found in a Snoops thread:

          ""TSP is used as a buffer to adjust the acidic nature of the cereal dough. In home cleaning products TSP is used in large quantities. In our food products we use very small amounts. Theoretically, any food grade base could be used: sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, ammonium hydroxide, ammonium phosphate, etc. At General Mills we have found that TSP works best in our particular products, and has been approved as safe for use in food by the Food and Drug Administration." "

          TSP is a strongly alkaline (base) product. That's part of why it is used as a cleaner; it is very effective at removing grease. But being a source of phosphorous it is not used in detergents much anymore. It certainly is harmful to ingest by itself or in any concentrated form. But apparently cereal makers have found that in small amounts it is useful to balance the acidity of other components of the dough.

          You do realize that you use a mild alkaline chemical all the time - sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)? Often it used in combination with an acid to produce CO2 (a gas).

          6 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            for the record i don't eat sodium bicarbonate everyday. i only eat bread and baked goods about once a week however, i do clean with it so technically i can call it a household cleaner and a baking ingredient which makes it sound pretty bad. i suppose since the TSP in the cereal is "food grade" it's probably not so bad. i asked this question b/c i had no idea the safety of it and googling only brought me so far. i will however, switch to organic o's just to calm my paranoia. i can also take GM's word only so far b/c they also (along with kelloggs) claim GMO's are completely safe to eat which I tend to disagree with.

            1. re: trolley

              Why does the use of an ingredient in cleaning make it suspect as a food ingredient?

              Did you know that fats are used in making soap? Our frontier ancestors used to make their own soap from lard and wood ash. Water and salt are both used in numerous industrial processes.

              1. re: paulj

                i understand water and salt are both used in industrial processes. from what i understand tsp isn't exactly environmentally friendly and i like to try to feed my toddler as much whole foods as possible. yes, i know soap used to be made from fats. i wasn't born yesterday. and fats are naturally occurring but does it make it ok to eat? sure it is in moderation and especially necessary if you happen to be 2 and under. TSP may be naturally occurring in our bodies but would you eat stomach enzymes? anyway, i'm not sure what you're trying to get at but it's my choice/right not to eat it. i can get other cereals without this ingredient. would you ask this same sort of question to a vegan if TSP was in place of meat? our ancestors have been eating meat for years. why not it eat it now?

                1. re: trolley

                  Whether one is a vegan or has burger grease dripping down their chin, the link below may help answer the posted question.

                  I first encountered TSP as a surface prep solution for painting. Then I noticed that it was in my bags of frozen shrimp and scallops as a means to increase moisture retention. For the same reason, they use it in things like bologna that I don't often buy. I avoid them not because of TSP, but because of nitrates and excess fat.


            2. re: paulj

              Are you really trying to compare sodium bicarbonate with trisodium phosphate??!!! I use Sodium bicarbonate to wash my hair, clean my face and rinse with it after brushing my teeth. Try doing that with Trisodium phosphate and let me know how it works out for you if you are still alive!!!!!

              1. re: rking42080

                Trisodium Phosphate is simply a more alkaline chemical than sodium bicarbonate. The the upside is you would simply need to use less! Also, might need a slight buffering agent as to not melt your skin off...
                FYI do you know why your hands / skin feels so smooth after using baking soda? It causes the outer layer of skin cells to burst, which makes them slippery.

            3. I was just looking at the ingredients of Cheerios (and a generic at Target) and saw Tripotassium phosphate, not Trisodium phosphate.


              In this list is described as a "Buffer, Emulsion Stabilizer, Neutralizing Agent, Sequestrant"
              The sodium version has similar functions, as does trisodium citrate.

              3 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                my "cheerios" are from Trader Joe's and was only told that it was made by GM but perhaps that's not the case. my Trader O's have trisodium phosphate in it.

                1. re: trolley

                  TJ's O's definitely aren't Cheerios - Cheerios contain wheat starch, the TJ's product contains corn starch...but i guess it's possible that GM makes the TJ's product for them and uses corn starch instead.

                  1. re: trolley

                    So better stick with GM if you are on a restricted sodium diet :)

                2. Another source: It's listed as an ingredient in the "Kraft Singles" cheese slices that were purchased for the Labor Day cookout at church. It's listed as "sodium phosphate", in the same class as triphosphate.

                  1. Its tripotassium phosphate not TSP! There is a difference, look it up.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: nonya

                      I have several cereals. Some have tripotassium phosphate but others clearly, like Trix, have Trisodium phosphate. I'm staring at the box.

                      1. re: Tr5854

                        Just three out a box, my son asked why, I explained it to him and he searched the cabinet making sure there wasn't any more we had to toss!

                        1. re: AllisonJoan

                          You tossed the TSP boxes, but kept the TPP ones? How long have you been eating the brands you tossed?

                          1. re: AllisonJoan

                            That was a waste of food. Tripotassium vs Trisodium is like I say potato you say patato. One has potassium and one has sodium, both elements your body uses and needs. Just because it's an alkaline chemical (like baking soda, or bisodium carbonate!) does not mean it's bad. In fact, once it's in your body it breaks down into its simple elements, sodium and phosphorus. Sort of like how monosodium glutamate is salt and glutamic acid, a proteinogenic amino acid that is required for you to live.

                      2. If the additives in processed, factory produced foods make one nervous and critical of food production in the U.S.; one could always make their own cereal. It is not all that difficult!!

                        1. HEALTH EFFECTS

                          The FDA claims that Trisodium phosphate in certain amounts is not a risk in food, but some reports and agencies have deemed it a hazardous substance. The Clean Water Act has taken steps to limit the use of TSP in cleaning supplies because it damages the environment. Phosphates are required of the human body, however trisodium phosphate is an inorganic chemical phosphate. There are other organic sources of necessary phosphates that are proven to be safe and beneficial for consumption.

                          TSP has not been proven to be toxic to humans as a food additive, but has shown to be severely irritating to the gastric mucosa unless part of a buffered solution. Trisodium phosphate may reduce accumulation of lactic acid in muscles. Excess intake of TSP may produce an imbalance of minerals that lead to loss of calcium from bone and a calcification of the kidneys. The daily limit of trisodium phosphate is recommended to be 70mg. TSP consumed as part of a Western junk food diet sometimes reaches upwards of 500mg, which leads to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

                          If a chemical is hazardous to our environment then how is it good for us? I found this on a website. Seems to me like a whole lot of brain washing crap! Now I Have been reading and looking up all ingredients in the foods I am feeding my family!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: TheRealRoxanne

                            FDA "claims" it's not a risk, but "some reports and agencies" which go unnamed deem it hazardous. You can find literally anything on a website. Anything.

                            1. re: TheRealRoxanne

                              In foods like this TSP IS part of a buffering solution - it is used to counter excess acidity in the cereal batter. There isn't any TSP in the baked cereal. It is all 'used up' during mixing and baking.

                              The same thing happens when you using baking soda or powder in your cakes. Unless you have used too much, there isn't any sodium bicarbonate in the end product. The carbon has combined with oxygen from the acid ingredients, and turned into CO2. The sodium remains, and does the phosphate (from monocalcium phosphate in the BP).

                              Anyone can read the ingredients, and look them up. But it takes some effort to understand basic chemistry, and to weigh the significance of the facts.

                              1. re: paulj

                                it's been over 4 years since i first posted this. since then, i've learned a bit about food and chemistry. i agree with the baking soda analogy. thanks for posting. i'm over my fears of certain additives.