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Aug 27, 2010 08:04 AM

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 :)