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Emulsifiers used in the food industry

When looking at the composition labels of the food products, the position called emulsifier is becoming more and more common. These additives appear under different names and symbols, which for many of us are a mystery. In this article, we’ll answer some important questions about these substances.

Published: 28-08-2019
emulsifiers in food

We will explain what emulsifiers are, what they are used for in food and what products can they be found in.

Emulsifier, what is it? It is nothing more than a consistency-creating substance. Emulsifiers used in the food industry enable to obtain better food quality which, due to the different composition, may have problems with consistency. Thanks to emulsifiers, it is possible to combine two phases – aqueous and oil, e.g. in mustard, mayonnaise, various sauces.

What is the emulsifier?

Emulsifiers are chemical compounds or their mixtures that allow the formation of a stable over time emulsion. The role of the emulsifier is to create stable micelles that are formed on the water-oil interface. Emulsifier particles accumulate at the interface of these phases, creating spherical structures. Outside the sphere there are hydrophilic heads with high affinity with the aqueous phase. On the other hand, inside the micelles’, there are lipophilic tails – carbon chains.

Emulsifiers are found in many food products. You can find them in various kinds of sweets, such as chocolate, chocolate bars, marshmallows. They are also found in dairy products – milk, cream, butter, cheese and yogurt. They are present in ready-made sauces, mayonnaise, soups, and many other food products in which the combination of oil and aqueous phase is needed.

Emulsifier – what is it and why are they used in food?

Thickening agents and emulsifiers are used in the food industry to give products a silky, dense consistency that makes food more attractive to the consumer. Products enriched with emulsifiers are often called velvety, delicate and creamy. Thanks to thickeners and emulsifiers, food products have the same high quality all the time, which means no delamination, consistent colour and consistency. With these substances, food products not only look nicer, but also taste better.

Emulsifiers – examples

A natural emulsifier is, for example, lecithin dispersing fat molecules in aqueous solutions of proteins and carbohydrates. You can find it in the egg yolk. It allows mustard to combine with oil when preparing mayonnaise. Lecithin is a widely used emulsifier in the food industry. It is added to bakery products, margarine, cakes, cookies and chocolate. It can be found on the food label under the symbol E322.

Another food emulsifier are diglycerides of fatty acids and fatty acid esters marked with the symbol E471. They are used for the production of wafers, ice creams and sauces. These substances are obtained from vegetable and animal fats. They are safe for health because they are digested by our body, and do not cause negative effects after absorption.

There are definitely more examples of emulsifiers. There are also agar, carrageenan, alginates coming from marine algae and seaweeds as well as obtained from plants locust bean gum, gum arabic or guar gum, which is widely used in food.

Emulsifier – where to buy?

When choosing emulsifiers, you should pay attention not only to the quality of the substance itself, but also to the manufacturer supplying the additive to the food industry. The company should have a stable position on the market, and hold the required test results and certificates confirming the purity and safety of using the emulsifier. PCC Group is such a manufacturer offering a wide range of food additives, such as emulsifiers. Go to the manufacturer’s website, and check the full offer!

Today, emulsifiers are widely used in the food industry. Some products, such as mayonnaise, margarine or sweets, would not have such consistency or taste if it was not for the emulsifiers. It is worth emphasizing that most of them are not harmful to our health, so there is no need to give up your favourite snacks, such as chocolate.


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