Beware of “anti-caking agents” in salt (and sea salt)!

As you may or may not be aware, most table salts contain quite a few ingredients. Some of these are “anti-caking agents” which function to keep the salt granules from clumping together so your salt will fall freely through the holes of your salt shaker. There are anti-caking agents in table salt, sea salt, and both iodized and non-iodized versions of both. If you wish to avoid such ingredients, just inspect the containers in the salt aisle until you find one whose ingredients list contains solely: “salt.”  And don’t assume, as I did, that just because a salt is coarse and comes in a fancy grinder that it is free of additives. Not true – check the label every time!

Several years ago at my aunt’s house, I was introduced to the ingredient, “yellow prussiate of soda.” I was enjoying some baked cabbage with my aunt that we made ourselves with just cabbage, olive oil and sea salt. By the time I finished eating, I had the worst hot flash!! My face was beet red, and I was literally running for the fan in the next room!! (And I never have hot flashes!) I couldn’t believe that this could’ve been caused by anything I’d just eaten, but I also couldn’t deny the timing of the reaction! Cabbage, olive oil and sea salt seemed like pretty “pure” ingredients to me, but I double-checked the ingredients just in case – and there it was on the back of the Morton sea salt: “yellow prussiate of soda (anti-caking agent).

Can I prove that my hot flash was from this additive? I suppose not, since I’m not willing to eat that salt again. However, I can tell you that I had never seen that ingredient on a food label before (and I pretty much read labels for a living!); the salt I use everyday at home does not contain it; I eat baked cabbage using this same recipe at home all the time with no effects…and I never, ever have hot flashes otherwise. So you be the judge!

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25 thoughts on “Beware of “anti-caking agents” in salt (and sea salt)!

  1. Thanks for the info!! What brand of salt do you like to use? I have your Eating Additive Free Book and find it very valuable. I am trying to eat healthier and your information is so helpful!! It is crazy how chemicals etc can effect your body. Just last week I was out of town for work, ate out at restaurant and had an omelette. Hours later I had the worst stomach ache and eventually it made me throw up. Yikes!! Should have gotten a salad! Thanks for all of your help.

    • Hi Jenny!
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the book! I don’t use any one particular brand of salt, but I do often buy the sea salt at Costco that comes in a grinder…or just any other salt at whatever store I happen to be at — as long as the label reads clean. I have used a “natural” sea salt by Morton brand – – and I feel pretty confident that it is free of additives because it sure DID clump together in my salt shaker 🙂 Yes, going out to eat can be a challenge. Generally, we just don’t bother, as it is incredibly tricky to know what may be in the dishes. Of course, salads have their own issues (e.g., dressings), too 😦 Take care!

      • Be careful with sea salt. The oceans are pretty polluted. Himalayan pink salt seems safer. Check it out. The seas it came from were gone long before people arrived!

  2. I am looking for a non-iodine salt without caking agents/chemicals for my son. He has thyroid cancer at age 15 and cannot have iodine for 2 weeks prior to his scan. Do you know of any? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  3. I had bought sea salt last year. No additives then. Now I can’t find any kind of salt without the anti caking agent. I had bought one recently and it had that yellow prussiate of soda and returned it after being iffy about using it.
    Thanks for the article.

    • Try Himalayan salt, or Redmond Natural Trace Mineral salt. There are no additives in either of these, nor are they super-heated to ~1,200F, as table salt is, which reportedly changes the way salt is utilized by the body. See Dr. Mercola’s website for more info. (no affiliation)

      • Himalayan salts have been heated to much higher temperature than normal generic Morton type salts. And easily over 95% of “Himalayan” salt is counterfeit including synthetic dyes. Adn it has the highest levels of “naturally occurring” radioactive compounds and elements. In fact lots of those “trace minerals” are bad for you. There is NO legitimate non current agency in Pakistan where it is produced insuring provenance (not any assurance it was not produced with child labor)?. Why do you think that even the most fancy brands of Himalayan salts contain micro plastics that did not exist when the Himalayan seams were layed down?

      • Sadly, Dr. Mercola had to remove his web-site due to unfounded and ludicrous accusations from government – who threatened a war if he did not remove his videos / articles / lifes work to help people !!!!

    • No additives in sea salt. Technically true. Sea salt also has the highest levels of man made pollutants, about 300 times as much as your Morton type Utah mined salts. Imagine filling your house with coastal sea waters (the most polluted sea water there is). Now imagine evaporating that down to a few refills of your salt shaker or grinder. You have more micro plastics, PCB, arsenic, “natural” cyanide (much worse than chemically fixed cyanide compounds) , agricultural fertilizer runoff, etc etc than anything else you consumer

  4. Hi I take sage for my hot flushes and I have just found out it has anti caking agents is my health in danger

    • the author has as much a clue about anti-caking agents affecting your health as she does her own: none whatsoever
      she made a wild guess as to the cause of her symptom, and then posted it on her blog as fact. do some research and ignore the reactionary pseudoscientists that peddle fear of the unknown

      • How about fear of the known, smarty pants.

        This from Wikipedia:

        “…However, like all ferrocyanide salt solutions, addition of an acid can result in the production of hydrogen cyanide gas, which is toxic….”

        So, are you putting that salt on a salad with AC vinegar at 5% acetic acid? Okey doke… Are you then chewing it before swallowing? You are? Woops there’s that acid again in your stomach, it’s called hydrochloric acid (HCl).

        There is just 2 possibilities that transform your harmless 535 additive into “hydrogen cyanide gas, which is toxic.”

        Some people are more sensitive than others to impurities and toxins even in very small doses, they are, you might say, the canaries in the coal mine for all of us demonstrating that maybe some of those unexplained symptoms have their origin in the modern diet.

        • No, actually, he’s completely right. I’m not sure which wikipedia page you pulled that little snippet from, but the page specific to Potassium ferrocyanide (AKA “Yellow Prussiate of Soda”) had this to say regarding toxicity:

          “Potassium ferrocyanide is nontoxic, and is not decomposed to cyanide in the body. The toxicity in rats is low, with lethal dose (LD50) at 6400 mg/kg.”

          The reason no cyanide it produced is that ferrocyanide and hydrochloric acid form hydroferrocyanic acid. In this form,the cyanide is still bound to the iron, which keeps it from binding to the haemoglobin.

          But even IF cyanide even COULD be produced in your stomach,the concentration of sodium ferrocyanide in table salt is 20 to 100 ppm, of which roughly half is cyanide. If all of this were released as HCN (in fact it is hard to get even half of it released when deliberately producing HCN under lab conditions), then the content would be 10 to 50 ppm.

          Cyanide is widely distributed in the plant kingdom in low concentrations so all mammals have a built in mechanism to detoxify cyanide, and does so at a rate (for human adults) of about 1.25 mg/min. You have to ingest cyanide at a rate exceeding this to have any toxic effect whatsoever. This would require a salt intake (and instantaneous cyanide release, which also does not happen even in the lab) of more than 50 grams a minute to even start create any theoretical cyanide toxicity.

          To actually show cyanide intoxication symptoms you have to surge to a level about 20 times this, or 1000 grams in the space of a few minutes. This is about four times the LD50 for sodium chloride itself. And of course, the cyanide would not actually get released since your stomach is not really a large reaction vessel filled with strong acid.

          So yeah, your rebuttal is nonsense, as is this entire blog post. Pure pseudoscience idiocy.

          • You lack empathy. I had a bad reaction to it twice. I have a medical condition that makes me more sensitive to chemicals. Why are you so angy?

  5. Do you have any evidence that the anticaking agent caused your reaction, or that your reaction is a universal reaction to that salt?

  6. I have salt baths. (very relaxing and therapeutic). I decided to use cooking salt instead of natural rock sea salt to save a dollar or two. I use two cups of salt in my bath. I was quite relaxed afterwards as usual but gradually noticed a difference and have felt a bit off (headachey, flushes and teary itchy eyes that felt not normal) next couple of days and couldn’t work out what it was. I check any thing different when I try to work out these things. (So much commercial chemical adulteration with even our basic foods, some of which have caused me problems on ivestigation). I checked and found the harmless looking agent 535 and found what it was as above. I think a few sprinkles on food may not be high risk, but now think using it in a hot bath in quantity is not the way to go. 😦 Back to 100% rock sea salt)

  7. Got a suggestion for a natural anticaking additive for the sea salt I grind ? how bout rice flour?

  8. I am in UK and bought Saxa salt a few months ago (March) I hadn’t had that brand since….I couldn’t remember when. But I thought salt is salt -right? I also can’t read small print without glasses so when I was in the store, didn’t read what anti caking agent it had in it and presumed whatever it was would be OK as I am never “allergic” or sensitive to anything.

    Okay about a week later I became weirdly unwell. Shaky funny turns and fluey feelings but not actual flu. Also slight nausea. But the horrible shakiness & high heartbeat was not nice.

    I slowly began to wonder about whether I was sensitive to the anti caking agent:

    I swapped salt and bought a grinder at Morrisons. It looked like “just salt”. Coarse but no mention on pack of what it contained.

    I still got weary and felt a bit knocked sideways but the “funny turns” thing stopped really soon and didn’t come back.

    Then tonight I was boiling potatoes and thought it wouldn’t do any harm to put some saxa salt in to cook them. I thought I was sure to have been wrong about that caking agent upsetting me over 2 months ago….
    I ate my food and forgot all about it.

    3 hours later I had trembling, shaking, slightly nauseous, heart beat a bit too fast….the works.

    So now I am putting 2& 2 together and thinking that stuff Sodiumhexacynaoferrate has to be toxic for me. All the salts mentioned in the comments here, I can’t get in the UK. If anyone reads from the UK can you tell me which is the best pure salt please?

  9. I have a chronic sinus condition and was using Mortons Sea Salt in my nasal rinse…for months. I did notice a distinctive odor and taste after rinsing. This progressively got worse and was affecting my sense of taste as well as smell. Strong smells like tobacco, gasoline, etc all smelled like the salt. I have recently switched to Himalayan salt and after about 10 days things are nearly back to normal. Very disconcerting.

  10. Yellow Prussiate of Soda is a very common anti-caking agent because of its high effectiveness to work at very, very low concentrations. This compound is not dangerous at all and even it was, the salt has barely any quantities of Yellow Prussiate of Soda.

    The expression is also beet red, not beat red.

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