Posts Tagged emulsifiers

Emulsifiers in food

Ice cream is another food that would not exist were it not for emulsifiers.

Oil and water don’t mix but they do form emulsions – and these are crucial to the consistency of a number of foodstuffs. Nature is good at making emulsions, and the classic example is milk, where a complex mixture of fat droplets are suspended in an aqueous solution.

Emulsifiers are the chemicals that make emulsions happen. Nature uses proteins and phospholipids, and many emulsifiers used in modern food production are based on these natural substances.

Ice cream is another food that would not exist were it not for emulsifiers.An emulsifier is a molecule in which one end likes to be in an oily environment and the other in a water environment. To make an oil-in-water emulsion, such as mayonnaise, droplets of oil molecules are surrounded by the oil-loving end of the emulsifier molecules. This leaves the water-loving ends on the outside of the droplet, and so they sit happily in water, giving a homogeneous liquid rather than an unappealing mixture of water and oily droplets. In mayonnaise, the emulsifier is the phospholipids present in egg yolks – they are such successful emulsifiers that as much as 80% oil can be dispersed in the aqueous phase.

Ice cream is another food that would not exist were it not for emulsifiers. It is both a foam and an emulsion, and its texture results from the ice crystals and unfrozen water it contains. But it’s not just creamy products where emulsifiers are crucial – bread and other baked products, where solid particles are dispersed in an airy foam, are enhanced by emulsifiers.

The emulsifiers that are used commercially come from both natural and synthetic sources. They include:

Lecithins (E322) are mixtures of phospholipids such as phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidylethanolamine, and are usually extracted from sources such as egg yolk and soybeans. The precise composition of the phospholipids depends on the source. Uses include salad dressings, baked goods and chocolate.

Esters of monoglycerides of fatty acids (E472a-f) are made from natural fatty acids, glycerol and an organic acid such as acetic, citric, lactic or tartaric. The fatty acids are usually from a vegetable source, though animal fats can be used. Products that use them include ice cream, cakes and crisps.

Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) are semi-synthetic emulsifiers made from glycerol and natural fatty acids, which can be from either plant or animal sources. They are used in products like breads, cakes and margarines.

Global additives market on the up


Global sales of food and drink additives reached £17.3 billion last year, according to a new report.

The best performing sectors include enzymes, acidulants and hydrocolloids, says Leatherhead Food Research’s report The Global Food Additives Market, with a growing demand for low fat, salt and sugar products – as well as functional health benefit products – driving demand for a host of additives including emulsifiers, hydrocolloids, sweeteners, vitamins and minerals, soya ingredients, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, prebiotics and plant stanol esters.

The report also says that while the global additives market has not been immune to the effects of the global economic downturn, a period of modest growth is forecast for the world food additives market over the next few years.

Some of the better performing sectors are likely to include natural flavours and colours, food hydrocolloids, enzymes and functional food ingredients.

E-numbers feast!


The day I ate as many E-numbers as possible!

Food labels such as ‘natural’ and ‘pure’ are confusing shoppers, according to a survey. But even more misunderstood are the E numbers that populate ingredient lists, says food writer Stefan Gates, who set out to see if additives are as bad as is often assumed Why would anyone do something as irresponsible as try to overload on sweeteners, flavourings, emulsifiers and preservatives, when food additives are a byword for culinary evil?

In Europe, these are given E numbers; in the United States and elsewhere, the full name is increasingly listed on food labels. Yet how many consumers would believe that such additives may actually be good for us? The boom in organic and natural foods in recent years betrays our trust in nature over science. Yet a survey by Which? magazine has found terms such as ‘natural’, ‘fresh’, ‘pure’ and ‘real’, which readily appear on the front of food packaging, are confusing consumers because they are largely unregulated.

Conversely, it is the additives tucked way in the small print of a product’s ingredients list that are heavily regulated. And when you look at clinical rather than anecdotal evidence, and speak to clinical dieticians, it appears these are actually good for us – and many seem to be very good for us indeed.

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