Ask Leah! The Ingles Dietitian

Sponsored: What is acetic acid?

ingles dietitianQuestion: What is acetic acid and is it bad for me?

Answer: Acetic acid…. sounds like one of those scary chemical ingredients that fearmongers warn you to avoid. If you were to inhale acetic acid it could cause your eyes to become irritated, you’d feel a burning sensation in your nose, you might feel congestion and a sore throat.

Acetic acid is used in various industrial processes like the production of plastics and film developing. Some rats who were given acetic acid for 30 days developed gastric lesions.

So would it surprise you to learn that many of us use something regularly that contains acetic acid?

Acetic acid is one main constituents (4-6%) of vinegar. The chemical formula for vinegar is essentially diluted acetic acid with water and various minerals and flavor from the starting material which could be items like apples, grapes or rice. 

This then is a good example of the “dose makes the poison” rule, i.e. in large or concentrated doses acetic acid may be used industrially and is dangerous to inhale, but in small, dilute doses in can be combined with extra virgin olive oil to make a delicious salad dressing!

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Other ways you can use vinegar:

-1 part vinegar to 3 parts water – Make up your own fruit and vegetable wash in bowl or a clean sink.

-1 part vinegar to 1 part water – A refrigerator sanitizer.

(Sources:; ) )


Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN

Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian



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