Trisodium citrate has the chemical formula of Na3C6H5O7. It is sometimes referred to simply as “sodium citrate“, though sodium citrate can refer to any of the three sodium salts of citric acid. It possesses a saline, mildly tart flavor. It is mildly basic and can be used along with citric acid to make biologically compatible buffers.
Sodium citrate is chiefly used as a food additive, usually for flavor or as a preservative. Its E number is E331. Sodium citrate is employed as a flavoring agent in certain varieties of club soda. It is common as an ingredient in bratwurst, and is also used in commercial ready-to-drink beverages and drink mixes, contributing a tart flavor. It is found in gelatin mix, ice cream, yogurt, jams, sweets, milk powder, processed cheeses, carbonated beverages, and wine, amongst others.
Sodium citrate can be used as an emulsifier when making cheese. It allows the cheese to melt without becoming greasy.
As a conjugate base of a weak acid, citrate can perform as a buffering agent or acidity regulator, resisting changes in pH. It is used to control acidityin some substances, such as gelatin desserts. It can be found in the milk minicontainers used with coffee machines. The compound is the product of antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, when they are dissolved in water. The pH of a solution of 5 g/100 ml water at 25 °C is 7.5 – 9.0.
In 1914, the Belgian doctor Albert Hustin and the Argentine physician and researcher Luis Agote successfully used sodium citrate as an anticoagulant in blood transfusions, with Richard Lewisohn determining its correct concentration in 1915. It continues to be used today in blood-collection tubes and for the preservation of blood in blood banks. The citrate ion chelates calcium ions in the blood by forming calcium citratecomplexes, disrupting the blood clotting mechanism. Recently, trisodium citrate has also been used as a locking agent in vascath and haemodialysis lines instead of heparin due to its lower risk of systemic anticoagulation.