Is Trisodium Phosphate in Food Bad for You?

Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2022
Is Trisodium Phosphate in Food Bad for You
Learn about the potential health risks of consuming foods high in trisodium phosphate

Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is an inorganic phosphate additive that is widely found in processed foods. 

Although small amounts of TSP may not cause health problems, eating foods high in phosphate additives on a daily basis can be harmful to your health. This is especially a concern if you have underlying conditions such as kidney disease

Phosphate overload has been associated with kidney problems, intestinal inflammation, poor bone density, heart disease, and even early mortality.

Learn about the potential health risks of consuming foods high in TSP.

What is trisodium phosphate used for?

Trisodium phosphate (TSP), commonly known as trisodium orthophosphate, is a white, granular material that is seen in the form of white powder.

TSP is also commonly used as a:

  • Food preservative
  • Leavening agent

Foods that contain TSP as an additive include:

  • Processed meat
  • Processed cheese
  • Many canned soups
  • Commercially baked goods 

TSP is added to foods because it:

  • Reduces acidity and improves texture
  • Maintains moisture and increases the shelf life of processed foods
  • Serves as a leavening agent in baked items
  • Acts as a thickening agent in items such as canned mashed potatoes
  • Keeps sodas from darkening 
  • Keeps fat and water from separating within processed cheese products

Why is trisodium phosphate considered unsafe?

According to the FDA, you can consume up to 70 mg of trisodium phosphate a day without significant health risks. However, due to the widespread usage of this food additive in hundreds of consumer items, the average American may be exposed to more than 500 mg of trisodium phosphate a day.

Potential side effects of excessive trisodium phosphate intake include:

  • Mineral imbalances, which can lead to kidney calcification and bone calcium loss, resulting in osteoporosis (bone fragility and increased risk of fractures)
  • Elevated phosphate levels in the blood, which can increase the risk of death from heart disease 

Who should avoid foods with trisodium phosphate?

Kidney disease or renal failure

  • People with renal failure or advanced chronic kidney disease should limit their phosphate intake, as too much phosphate can aggravate already damaged kidneys.
  • Excessive phosphate intake has been linked to an increased risk of mortality in people with renal failure who are on hemodialysis.

Osteoporosis and osteopenia

  • Excessive intake of foods with TSP can be detrimental to bone health.
  • According to studies, a diet high in sodium phosphate food additives elevated fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23), a bone mineralization inhibitor, by 23% compared with a diet low in phosphate additives. 
  • Studies on premenopausal women reported that high consumption of foods that contain phosphate additives may result in elevated levels of parathyroid hormone, which can cause the body to release calcium from the bones. Calcium loss from the bones can impair bone health.

Cardiovascular problems

  • High trisodium phosphate intake can increase the risk of heart disease in people with and without kidney impairment. 
  • Too much phosphate in the body can promote calcification of the arteries, which can damage the heart.
  • High blood phosphate levels have been linked to increased coronary artery calcification and other heart disease risk factors.

Inflammatory bowel disease

  • In lab studies, a high intake of inorganic phosphates has been shown to exacerbate gastrointestinal inflammation.
  • Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are both caused by inflammation, and studies show that a high inorganic phosphate diet can aggravate symptoms by increasing inflammation.


What does the FDA say about trisodium phosphate?

Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is approved by the FDA as a food additive. According to the FDA, food-grade TSP has been greatly diluted, purified, and used in trace amounts in food. 

Because trace levels of this chemical have no documented risk to humans, it is included on the Generally Regarded as Safe list of food additives by the FDA. However, there are no standards for measuring and determining the level of such phosphates in processed foods. 

Ongoing research is investigating the potential negative consequences of TSP.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2022
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