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Colourless, crystalline organic compound (CHO), one of the carboxylic acids. It is present in almost all plants (especially citrus fruits) and in many animal tissues and fluids. It is one of a series of compounds involved in the physiological oxidation (seeoxidation-reduction) of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and water (seetricarboxylic acid cycle). It has a characteristic sharply sour taste and is used in many foods, confections, and soft drinks. It is added to certain foods to improve their stability in metal containers. Industrially, it is used as a water conditioner, cleaning and polishing agent, and chemical intermediate.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on citric acid, visit Britannica.com.