That’s the question I wanted to ask the Trader Joe’s customer service person today. But, being a polite, well-mannered sort of person, I instead asked “Do you know what calcium chloride is?”
The friendly guy, who’s name tag indicated he’s the First Mate, which is cute in a taking-the-metaphor-a-little-too-far kind of way, replied that it’s a chemical used on icy roads and in concrete. Which, quite frankly, didn’t make me feel too comfortable about purchasing the can of tomatoes I was holding that had calcium chloride in the ingredients.
So I said to First Mate, “Oh, well, I was just asking because it’s in these tomatoes.” At which point he looked as baffled as me then kindly offered to call and find out.
The official Trader Joe’s response was that calcium chloride is a kind of salt used as a preservative and to add calcium to the food.
I didn’t buy the tomatoes (it’s also in TJ’s 50% less sugar fruit preserves) because I wanted to look into it a little more.
It turns out that calcium chloride is indeed a type of salt. According to the CODEX General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA), it’s official use is as a stabilizer,Â firming agent, and thickener. Calcium chloride is generally recognized as safe (GRAS)Â by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (which never sounds like resoundingly confident endorsement). Wikiedia points out that it’s anÂ electrolyteÂ and is used in some sports drinks. In addition to preserving canned vegetables, Â it’s often used to make pickles.
Bottom line: The FDA considers it safe and it has many approved and acceptable uses but I don’t think canned tomatoes and fruit preserves fall into that category. Â I’ll stick to my regular calcium chloride-free brands.