Sodium aluminum phosphate is probably safe. There’s a tiny amount in most foods - too little to hurt you - although you should be careful with aluminum if you have a kidney problem.
Sodium aluminum phosphate (SAP) is a food additive that’s used as a leavening agent. Put a little SAP in your bread dough and subject it to heat, and it’ll help the yeast to make carbon dioxide. The dough will bubble and rise.
Sodium aluminum phosphate is regarded as safe by the Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority, the UK’s Food Standard’s Agency, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Office. All have set limits for the amount of SAP that can be safely used as food additive - usually somewhere between 1 and 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight in your overall weekly diet. The European Union also restricts the use of SAP as a leavening agent to certain kinds of sponge cakes.
Why restrict the use of sodium aluminum phosphate? Because it’s a chemical that has aluminum in it. Aluminum is one of the most common elements on earth. The crust of our planet has more aluminum than any other metal, and there’s aluminum in the water we drink, the food we eat, the medications we take, and a whole range of man-made things that we interact with on a daily basis.
Most of the aluminum that we consume passes right back out the other end without being absorbed by our body. Small amounts are taken up by our digestive system and end up in the body. Our kidneys work to filter this aluminum back out. Get too much aluminum into your system without a healthy pair of kidneys, however, and you might run into problems.
What kind of problems? Anemia, bone problems, and constipation, at lower levels. Higher amounts can cause chronic aluminum toxicity and do damage to the brain - you might suffer from memory loss or dementia. A healthy adult isn’t going to get aluminum toxicity from eating too many sponge cakes leavened with sodium aluminum phosphate. If you have kidney problems, however, you might be at risk - consult with a medical professional about how to manage levels of aluminum in your diet.
Possible long-term side effects
- bone problems
- chronic aluminum toxicity (with extremely high doses)
- brain damage (with extremely high doses)
Ingredients to be aware of