What Is Calcium Disodium EDTA?

Calcium disodium EDTA is a white, odorless, crystalline powder, with a faint, salty taste. In the food industry, it is commonly used a preservative and sequestrant.


The full scientific name is Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetraacetate

It is a chelating agent, meaning that it binds to metals. When the metals are bound (or sequestered), they are prevented from taking part in chemical reactions that would lead to colour or flavour deterioration. For example, when used in canned foods, such as lima beans, it prevents the beans from darkening because the iron ions and other metals found in the canning water are bound by the additive and cannot participate in other reactions.1 It inhibits rancidity (disagreeable odor or taste of decomposing oils or fats) in salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and sandwich spreads.

Calcium disodium EDTA is made from formaldehyde,sodium cyanide, and Ethylenediamine

Common Uses:

Calcium disodium EDTA is widely used and is becoming one of the most common organic pollutants.

Besides its use as a food additive, it is used in the textile and paper industries. It is used to improve stability in pharaceutical products, detergents, shampoos, soaps, argricultural chemical sprays, contact lens cleaners and cosmetics. It is used in medical laboratories and dentist offices.

Calcium disodium EDTA has been approved in the U.S. for use in chelation therapy. Chelation therapy helps to remove heavy metals from the body and is used to treat lead poisoning and radiation exposure.

As a food additive, it helps to prevent colour or flavour deterioration. In soft drinks containing ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate, EDTA helps to prevent the formation of benzene which is a known carcinogen.

Foods that may contain Calcium disodium EDTA include:4

  • Pickled cabbage and     cucumbers
  • Canned potatoes
  • Cooked and canned     shrimp, clams and crabmeat
  • Canned beans
  • Canned mushrooms

Side Effects / Health Issues:

Calcium disodium EDTA is on the FDA priority list of food additives to be studied for mutagenic, teratogenic, subsacute, and reproductive effects. In other words, the FDA wants to study it further to see if it is associated with birth defects, cancer or reproductive problems.

Most of the references I’ve been able to find seem to indicate that Calcium disodium EDTA is safe in small amounts found in prescription medicine, eye drops and food preservatives. However, there is a risk that it could cause cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, low blood pressure, skin problems, and fever. It is not safe to consume more than 3 grams per day. Too much can cause kidney damage, low calcium levels and even death.5

E Number:

The E number of Calcium disodium EDTA is 385.

Personal Notes

I first found about Calcium Disodium EDTA when I read the ingredient list on a jar or mayonnaise. I really enjoy mayonnaise on my sandwiches and I probably won’t stop buying it, but after researching this post, I think I’m going to try to make my own more often. Of course, homemade won’t always be an option, and if you’re careful, you can find brands that don’t contain these chemicals.


[1] Health Canada Definition of Codes for Food Additives

[2] Zhiwen Yuan and Jeanne M. VanBriesen. Environmental Engineering Science. May/June 2006, 23(3): 533-544. doi:10.1089/ees.2006.23.533

[3] College Of Health and Human Sciences, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

[4] FDA 21CFR172.120: Calcium disodium EDTA

[5] EDTA: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD

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