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The role of food thickeners in food

Views: 93     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-08-15      Origin: Site

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Food thickeners, as defined in the Food Safety Standard for the Use of Food Additives, are substances that can increase the viscosity or form gels to change the physical properties of food, give food a viscous and suitable texture, and also emulsify, stabilise or suspend food. As an additive, food thickeners are mainly used to improve and increase the viscosity of food, maintain the colour, flavour and stability of fluid food and jelly food, improve the physical properties of food and give food a lubricious and palatable feel.


Sources of food thickeners


There are currently more than 40 types of food thickeners allowed in the world. Depending on the source, they can be divided into vegetable gums, which are mainly thickeners made from the exudate of different plants with damaged epidermis. Animal gums, thickeners made from animal raw materials containing proteins, these thickeners are extracted from animal skins, bones, tendons, milk and other raw materials, the main component of which is protein. Seaweed gums, polysaccharide bodies extracted from seaweed, such as agar. Chemically modified gums, made from cellulose and starch, which are hydrolysed, condensed and purified under the action of chemical raw materials such as acids, bases and salts. Microbial gums, such as xanthan gum, etc. Food thickeners are also known as edible gums.

food thickener

The role of food thickeners in food


According to the Food Safety Standard for Food Additives, food thickeners are defined as substances that can increase the viscosity of food or form gels that change the physical properties of food, give food a sticky, pleasant taste and have the effect of emulsifying, stabilising or keeping food in suspension. It also specifies the variety and scope of use of the 40 permitted food thickeners and the maximum use or residue levels. The types of foods allowed to be thickened include grain and grain products, milk and milk products, fat and oil and emulsified fat products, frozen beverages, fruit products, confectionery, starch products, pastry, meat and meat products, aquatic products, syrups, condiments, foods for special dietary uses, beverages, wine, etc.


The standard also specifies 27 varieties of food thickeners that can be added in appropriate amounts to various types of food according to production needs, among which the more common ones such as sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, propylene glycol alginate, carrageenan, xanthan gum, pectin, guar gum, acacia bean gum, etc., commonly used in the production of beverages, starch and modified starch, gelatin, sodium alginate, etc., commonly used in jelly and ice cream are sodium alginate, carrageenan and xanthan gum, etc.


Food thickeners allowed by national standards can not only play a role in thickening, stabilising, gelling and water retention, but some also have certain nutritional value. Adding thickeners that are not permitted by national standards or using food thickeners in excess of their scope or limit is harmful to human health.


In practice, the use of food thickeners is often complicated. For example, some thickeners are dextrins and modified starches produced by starch hydrolysis, which are non-toxic and harmless in themselves, but they tend to raise blood sugar and adding too much may lead to a violent blood sugar reaction, posing a health risk. For example, many small workshops use colours, bulking agents, emulsifiers and thickeners based on their feelings and do not follow the standards.

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