Vinegar made from synthetic acetic acid has no adverse health effects – toxicologist

Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
Vinegar made from synthetic acetic acid has no adverse health effects – toxicologist
The Department of Health, however, prohibits the use of synthetic acetic acid in vinegar which it deems 'adulterated'

MANILA, Philippines – Vinegar made from synthetic acetic acid has no adverse health effects, according to former University of the Philippines-Diliman Institute of Chemistry director Flerida Cariño.

On Monday, May 20, Cariño said, “[H]ealth-wise, as far as I know, there has never been any reason to think that acetic acid from synthetic sources or non-biogenic sources is carcinogenic or toxic compared to its biogenic counterparts.” 

Earlier, the Philippine National Research Institute’s (PNRI) study said that synthetic sources can cause cancer. 

PNRI’s study, which began in the early 2000s, found that 15 out of 17 vinegar brands contain synthetic acetic acid. The study, however, did not disclose what these brands are and did not determine if there were any residues or contaminants found in these brands. 

Wala talagang data ‘nun, whatsoever (There is no data on that, whatsoever.) It is the contaminants that may have been present which [were] not analyzed, which is actually the problem,” Cariño said.

This should trigger further study and require looking at the presence of contaminants especially in vinegar made from synthetic acetic acid. Regulatory issues involving the proper labeling of vinegar also need assessment.

Cariño, a biochemist and toxicologist, pointed out that petroleum products or fermented crops also produce acetic acid and create the same chemical effects.

Cariño also serves as a consultant for a number of government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, which called for a meeting to clear up the issue of “fake” vinegar.



Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards Director Vivencio Mamaril said that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol had instructed them to specifically check standards.

Ang FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will undergo a quality evaluation para naman tingnan kung ang [standards ng] ating suka ay nangangailangan na i-revise, or i-amend,” he added. 

(The FDA will undergo a quality evaluation to see if our vinegar standards need to be revised or amended.)

“Because when we looked at the international standards for vinegar, there wasn’t anything yet. This is still being discussed internationally,” Mamaril said in a mix of Filipino and English.


Under the Department of Health’s Administrative Order (AO) No. 123 series of 1970, however, vinegar has to come from a fermentation process. Any of the following can be fermented to make vinegar that follows Philippine standards: 

  • malt
  • spirit
  • wine
  • cider
  • alcoholic liquors
  • fruits
  • grain
  • vegetables
  • honey
  • glucos sugar 
  • coconut
  • nipa-sap

Caramel can also be used for coloring without declaring it on the label, while flavoring has to be indicated on the vinegar’s label.

What’s prohibited

What the order does not allow, however, is the use of synthetic acetic acid in vinegar which “shall be deemed to be adulterated and its sale is hereby prohibited.” 

Vinegar should also not contain foreign substances, drugs, sulfuric acid and other mineral acids, according to the AO.

FDA Regulation Officer IV Maria Theresa Cerbolles told Rappler that during their annual rounds of monitoring processed food products in the past, they had found a number of violators. –

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