What is Potassium Acetate E261(i) and its Uses in Food and Pharmaceutical?

Production | Food uses | Medical uses

Potassium acetate (KAc) or potassium ethanoate, the potassium salt of acetic acid with the chemical formula KCH3CO2. This ingredient can be used as an acidity regulator, flavor agent, and preservative to replace sodium acetate to reduce sodium in food and with the European food additive number E261(i). 

In Pharmaceutical uses, its main purpose is as an alternative of potassium chloride to treat low potassium.

How is Potassium Acetate made?

It is a synthetic ingredient commonly produced by reaction acetic acid with potassium hydroxide or potassium carbonate. The following is the reaction equation:



A deliquescent powder or granular with a faint acetic odour. Potassium acetate is the strong conjugate base of acetic acid. When dissolved in water, it dissociates CH3COO- ions and K+, and forms acetic acid (CH3COOH) and KOH after these two ions react with water respectively, CH3COO- combines with H+, and K+ reacts with OH-.

Other names K acetate
CAS number 127-08-2
Chemical formula C2H3O2K
Molecular weight 98.14
PH A week alkalinity, with PH 7.5-9.0 (5% aqueous solution)
Solubility very soluble in water and freely soluble in ethanol.

What’re the Uses of Potassium Acetate?


Its main uses in food as follows: 

  • A buffering agent to adjust the food acidity.
  • A flavoring agent to impart a vinegar taste in potato chips, potato salads, and other snack food.
  • A preservative to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria in meat products and prolong shelf life.
  • Potassium supplement.

Plus, the food grade can also be used as an alternative of sodium acetate and sodium diacetate in low sodium food products as it is sodium free. However, it may bring a slight “metallic” taste due to the potassium in it.


Potassium acetate is classified into “Synthetic flavoring substances and adjuvants” that may be safely used in food but not listed in GRAS. (1)


Potassium acetate E261(i) is an authorised food additive in the European Union (EU), and most of its uses are approved since 2013. It shares the same uses with calcium acetate. (2):

  • Canned or bottled fruit and vegetables 
  • Bread 
  • Prepacked meat 
  • Processed cereal-based foods and baby foods, only for pH adjustment


Function Class: food additives, acidity regulator, preservative. (3

Acceptable daily intake: ADI “not limited” in 1973. (4)

Medical uses

  • A substitute of potassium chloride to treat hypokalemia caused by potassium deficiency.
  • Used in the production of insulin for diabetes treatment. 
  • The same function with sodium acetate in ethanol precipitation of DNA.
  • Used with formaldehyde in the preservation and fixation of biological tissues. 


It can be used as an effective ice and snow melting agent to replace calcium chloride and magnesium chloride for deicing airport runways, but it is more expensive.

Fire extinguishing agent

It can be used together with potassium citrate as a fire extinguishing agent in Class K fire extinguishers to put off fires caused by cooking oils and grease. It can also set a barrier between fire source and oxygen.


Now you may have a knowledge of the multifunctional ingredient – Potassium acetate E261(i), from the manufacturing processes, uses in food, medical, as a deicer and a fire extinguishing agent.

What other applications have you found this ingredient in? Let me know in the comments.

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