Lactic acid is found primarily in sour milk products, such as koumiss, laban, yogurt, kefir, some cottage cheeses, and kombucha. The casein in fermented milk is coagulated (curdled) by lactic acid. Lactic acid is also responsible for the sour flavor of sourdough breads.
Often in lists of nutritional information, such as the USDA National Nutrient Database, lactic acid will be included under the term "carbohydrate" (or "carbohydrate by difference") because this includes everything other than water, protein, fat, ash, and ethanol. This means a value of 4 calories per gram will be used for any lactic acid in calculating the food energy.
In beer brewing some styles of beer (sour beer) purposely contain lactic acid. Most commonly this is produced naturally by various strains of bacteria. These bacteria ferment sugars into acids, unlike yeast, who ferment sugar into ethanol. One such style are Belgian Lambics. After cooling the wort, yeast and bacteria are allowed to “fall” into the open fermenters. Most brewers of more common beer styles would ensure no such bacteria are allowed to enter the fermenter. Other sour styles of beer include Berliner weisse, Flanders red and American wild ale.
In winemaking, a bacterial process, natural or controlled, is often used to convert the naturally present malic acid to lactic acid, to reduce the sharpness and for other flavor-related reasons. This malolactic fermentation is undertaken by the family of lactic acid bacteria.
As a food additive it is approved for use in the EU, USA and Australia and New Zealand; it is listed by its INS number 270 or as E number E270. Lactic acid is used as a food preservative, curing agent, and flavoring agent. It is an ingredient in processed foods and is used as a decontaminant during meat processing. Lactic acid is produced commercially by fermentation of carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose, or lactose, or by chemical synthesis. Carbohydrate sources include corn, beets, and cane sugar.