Potassium Chloride 201: Uses in Food

The second article in a 3 part series about potassium chloride, its uses in food, & its role in human nutrition.

Potassium chloride is a common, naturally occurring mineral.  According to the Food & Drug Administration, generally recognized as safe (GRAS)affirmed uses of potassium chloride in foods are as: a flavor enhancer, flavoring agent, nutrient supplement, pH control agent, and stabilizer or thickener.1  However, potassium chloride is generally used for two main purposes in food products.  The first is to provide potassium enrichment to foods.  The second is as a salt replacer to reduce the sodium content in foods. Like salt (aka sodium chloride), potassium chloride provides a salty flavor and can also often play other functional roles (e.g. microbial management, protein modification, flavor enhancement) that impacts the taste, texture, and shelf life of food products.

The safety of oral consumption of potassium chloride is supported by its long history of use in foods, and its regulatory acceptance for food use in the U.S. and by numerous international scientific bodies and regulatory authorities.  The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for chloride salts (including potassium chloride) is “not limited,” which is indicative of their very low toxicity to humans.2

Potassium chloride has been affirmed as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a multipurpose ingredient in foods with no limitation other than current good manufacturing practice (cGMP), which means food manufacturers can use it at levels necessary to achieve its intended technological effect in a food product.1

Potassium chloride is widely used as a salt replacer or to provide potassium enrichment in many different food products including:

  • Baby formulas
  • Cereals
  • Frozen entrees
  • Meats
  • Snack foods, such as chips or crisps
  • Sports/electrolyte drinks
  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Snack/meal bars

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1  Title 21, Part 184—Direct food substances affirmed as generally recognized as safe, Subpart B—Listing of specific substances affirmed as GRAS, Section 184.1622 Potassium chloride of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  Available from:  http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1622&SearchTerm=potassium%20chloride.

2 JECFA.  1980. Evaluation of certain food additives—Chloride: Ammonium, magnesium, potassium.  Twenty-third Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA); WHO Technical Report Series (TRS) No. 648, Rome/WHO, Geneva.  Available from:  http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_648.pdf.