The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes acetic acid on its list of direct food substances considered Generally Recognized As Safe (“GRAS” is an acronym for the phrase Generally Recognized As Safe. Under sections 201(s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excluded from the definition of a food additive.). FDA considers vinegar to be a common food ingredient safe for its intended use. The safety of acetic acid has been assessed by the Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety. The Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that acetic acid was safe for use in cosmetic products.
The Expert Panel reviewed data that indicated that in the body, acetic acid is metabolized and eliminated from the body as carbon dioxide and water. Glacial acetic acid is highly corrosive to the eyes and skin. When acetic acid is diluted to the concentrations found in vinegar and used in cosmetic products it is not irritating to the skin. Based on the available data, the Expert Panel concluded that acetic acid was safe for use in cosmetic products.
Acetic acid, vinegar, and brown rice vinegar may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union.
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives conducted a toxicological evaluation of some antimicrobials, antioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilizers, flour-treatment agents and acids and bases, including acetic acid. The Committee concluded that since acetic acid has a sufficiently acid taste to limit the amount used in foods, it was not necessary to indicate acceptable daily intakes for humans. Also, residues of acetic acid on food treated with antimicrobial washing solutions did not pose a safety concern.