Monochloroacetic acid in the food industry

Constant technical and technological development has made the food sector undergo significant transformations in recent years. It has great potential due to innovation and creativity. Food industry is one of the strongest branches of Polish industry.

Published: 15-04-2020

Its share in the food sector in the European Union is amounting to about 9%. Poland is on the 8th place among food exporters in EU countries, and export revenues are significantly increasing. According to the data of the Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics, in 2019 it was an increase by 7%, i.e. EUR 32 billion as compared to EUR 29.7 billion in the previous year. Food products from Poland have now been popular on foreign markets for years. The time has come when the agricultural and food industry is an attractive area for the development of start-ups, which until now have been associated primarily with the technology and IT industries.

Food industry is a branch of the economy dealing in the production of products and semi-finished products intended for consumption. The chemistry of food additives plays a huge role here. Thanks to their use we are able to maintain high quality food. They extend the shelf life of food products and improve taste. To improve the performance and stability of such products we use e.g. carboxymethylcellulose (CMC, cellulose gum, carmellose), which is a derivative of monochloroacetic acid. CMC is usually in a form of white loose powder, but can also be in the form of granules. It dissolves in cold and warm water in which it swells and has properties of a weak anionic electrolyte with pH 6.5-8.0. Water solutions are also characterized by high viscosity with the increase of the degree of polymerization. It is not a homogeneous product, it is tasteless and odourless. CMC is relatively resistant to micro-organisms, however, it may undergo depolymerization.

Carboxymethylcellulose is used in the food industry as a stabilizer, thickener, emulsifier, anti-caking agent, filler and dietary fibre. It is marked with the E466 symbol. It improves the consistency of products such as ice cream, low-calorie and gluten-free desserts, dairy products, mayonnaise, chewing gum, modified baby formula or ready fried products. It is also used for gluing elements when modelling figurines, making sugar glue or as a component of sugar mass, sugar paste and drinks. You can use it when baking gluten-free bread and making salad dressings. It has zero calories. It is not digested or absorbed in the digestive tract, it is partly broken down by bacterial flora, and 90% is excreted in an unchanged form.
It does not possess any mutagenic or carcinogenic properties. Studies have shown that it has a bactericidal effect inside the tissues, which confirms the absolute safety of its use. The global carboxymethylcellulose market reached USD 1.735 billion in 2019 and is growing at a rate of 4.1% per year.

Carboxymethylcellulose ranks second among the most common applications of the monochloroacetic acid. Monochloroacetic acid (MCAA) is also used in the synthetic caffeine production. You can find it in carbonated drinks (mainly in coke), energy drinks and dietary supplements. Caffeine is a stimulant. It acts on the central nervous system by directly affecting brain functions. It is ingested to reduce fatigue, improve physical fitness, coordination, concentration, endurance and alertness. It accelerates metabolism, stimulates fat burning and improves respiratory function. It supports the regulation of sugar management in the body and reduces muscle soreness after intense physical effort. After being ingested, it is absorbed within 45 minutes. Its consumption is safe for humans, as long as the dose does not exceed 600 mg per day. Synthetic caffeine makes the product containing it work faster and much more intense than the natural caffeine that coffee contains.

In addition to being used in the food industry, monochloroacetic acid is also used in many other industries. The list of possible applications includes agrochemicals, plant protection products, fertilizers, plastics, detergents, paints, varnishes, cosmetics, personal hygiene products and the pharmaceutical, pulp and paper and mining industries.

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