Fumaric acid is safe in food. Kidney failure has been documented when used as a treatment for psoriasis.
Fumaric acid is a chemical that's naturally produced when human skin is exposed to sunlight. It's used in a number of foods as a flavoring agent; fumaric acid is tart, and it lends a similar sourness when used as a food additive.
The FDA and European Food Safety Agency have declared that fumaric acid is safe for human consumption. So has the World Health Organization's Committee on Food Additives. They've set safe levels of consumption around 500mg a day, which is much less than most foods with added fumaric acid contain.
Studies in animals have demonstrated that fumaric acid has a low toxicity. It doesn't bioaccumulate in tissue and has thus far not been demonstrated to be much of irritant. Fumaric acid is stable - it doesn't break down unexpectedly into other, more dangerous compounds - and doesn't corrode glass.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group that campaigns hard for better protections and restrictions on chemicals they perceive to be dangerous, maintains a database of different food additives and scores them on their safety. That database stands with governmental food safety organizations in declaring that fumaric acid is safe.
Fumaric acid is sometimes found in processed foods such as smoked meats. It's important to remember that eating processed foods increases your risk of developing a range of chronic conditions, including cancers of the stomach and the bowel. While fumaric acid itself may be safe, remember that there's risk associated with eating some of the foods in which it appears.
There's a medical application for fumaric acid as well. It's used as a treatment for psoriasis. One case saw a woman using fumaric acid for treatment experience sudden renal failure. If you're using fumaric acid to treat psoriasis and have a history of kidney problems, you may want to have a discussion with your doctor about potential side effects.
Possible long-term side effects
- kidney problems (when used as a medicine)
Commonly found in
- wheat / corn tortillas
- sourdough / rye breads
- biscuit doughs
- fruit juice
- gelatin desserts
- gelling aids
- pie fillings
- processed meats
- enhances flavor of food