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Food Chem Toxicol. 2001 Aug;39(8):759-86.

Toxicological review of inorganic phosphates.

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  • 1FMC Corporation, Princeton, NJ 08543, USA.


Inorganic phosphate salts are widely used as food ingredients and in a variety of commercial applications. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers inorganic phosphates "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS) (FDA, 1973a, 1979) [FDA: Food and Drug Administration 1973a. GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) food ingredients-phosphates. NTIS PB-221-224, FDA, Food and Drug Administration, 1979. Phosphates; Proposed Affirmation of and Deletion From GRAS Status as Direct and Human Food Ingredients. Federal Register 44 (244). 74845-74857, 18 December (1979)] and the European Union (EU) allows inorganic phosphates to be added directly to food (EU Directive 95/2/EC as amended by 98/72/EC). In this review, data on the acute, subchronic and chronic toxicity, genotoxicity, teratogenicity and reproductive toxicity from the published literature and from unpublished studies by the manufacturers are reviewed. Based on the toxicity data and similar chemistry, the inorganic phosphates can be separated into four major classes, consisting of monovalent salts, divalent salts, ammonium salts and aluminum salts. The proposed classification scheme supports the use of toxicity data from one compound to assess the toxicity of another compound in the same class. However, in the case of eye and skin irritation, the proposed classification scheme cannot be used because a wide range of responses exists within each class. Therefore, the eye and skin hazards associated with an individual inorganic phosphate should be assessed on a chemical-by-chemical basis. A large amount of toxicity data exists for all four classes of inorganic phosphates. The large and comprehensive database allows an accurate assessment of the toxicity of each class of inorganic phosphate. Overall, all four classes of inorganic phosphates exhibit low oral, inhalation and dermal toxicities. Based on these data, humans are unlikely to experience adverse effects when the daily phosphorus consumption remains below 70 mg/kg/day (JECFA, 1964, 1982a) [JECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives 1964. Specifications for the Identity and Purity of Food Additives and their Toxicological Evaluation) Emulsifiers, Stabilizers, Bleaching, and Maturing Agents. Technical Report Series of the World Health Organization 281; ECFA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives 1982a. Phosphoric Acid and Phosphate Salts. ICS/FA/82)].

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