Tartaric Acid


Tartaric acid is a white crystalline dicarboxylic acid. It is the most water-soluble of the solid acidulants and is produced from potassium acid tartrate, which is a by-product of the wine industry from the press cakes, less and argols left behind. The acid is popular in major wine producing countries, including Spain, France, Germany and Italy. [1]

Uses [1,2]

Tartaric acid is primarily used as an acidulant—additives that give a sharp (sour, tart or acidic) taste to foods. It is particularly effective in anything that is lime or grape flavoured, and as such, is often found in grape and lime flavoured beverages, gelatinous desserts, jams and hard boiled sweets. It is also used in baking in various applications, including as a leavening agent (when combined with baking soda), and to increase the stability of foods.

  • Routes of Exposure [2,3]

  • People can be exposed to tartaric acid by inhalation, skin and eye contact and by ingesting the compound.

  • Tartatic acid naturally occurs in fruit plants, including apples, bananas, apricots, avocados, grapes and tamarinds

~h1Health Effects

Tartaric aicd poisoning can affect a range of systems including the nervous, respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Acute Effects [4]

Severity of symptoms depends on the level and type of exposure.

  • In low doses, tartaric acid is an irritant.
  • Skin contact can cause itching and a rash.
  • Eye contact may result in lacrimation, redness and pain.
  • Inhalation of the compound could result in coughing and irritation of the mucous membrane of the nasal passage.
  • Due to the form of tartaric acid, high levels of ingestion are considered unlikely. However, if high levels are ingested, it may cause gastrointestinal (GI) irritation.

Chronic Effects [5]

While chronic toxicity of tartaric acid is considered a low risk, it is still possible. Prolonged exposure to the compound can cause skin, upper respiratory tract and mucous membrane irritation. Ingestion of large quantities may result in irritation to the GI tract, which could result in nausea or vomiting.


~h2First Aid Measures [3]

  • Ingestion: If ingested, rinse mouth with water and DO NOT induce vomiting. Immediately call a doctor or a poison centre.
  • Skin contact: In case of skin or hair contact, remove affected clothing and wash exposed skin with mild soap and water followed by a warm water rinse.
  • Eye contact: Flush eyes out carefully with water for a few minutes. Remove contact lenses if easy to do so. Continue rinsing. Immediately call a poison centre.
  • Inhaled: Take contaminated person to nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Allow person to rest.

  • Exposure Controls/Personal Protection [3]

  • Engineering controls: Safety showers and emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure.

  • Personal protection: Safety glasses and protective gloves.


~h2United States [6]:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) concentration for tartaric acid of 15mg/m3.

Australia [7]

Safe Work Australia: Safe Work Australia has not set a specific TWA for tartaric acid. For dust limits that have not otherwise been specified, the TWA set for an 8-hour, 5-days-a-weeek is 10mg/m3. In industrial settings, it is recommended to keep exposure below the TWA levels. This can be done by using local exhaust ventilation or by capturing substances at the source.