Are emulsifiers safe to eat?

In this brief guide, we will discuss the question “are emulsifiers safe to eat?”. As well, we will discuss what are emulsifiers, what are additives, what is the legal definition of food additives, what are direct food additives, and other concerns about emulsifiers.  

Are emulsifiers safe to eat?

Yes, it is safe to eat emulsifiers, as long they are following the rules and some of them have beneficial health. Emulsifiers are used as additives in food.

What are emulsifiers?

Emulsifiers are considered an additive and are used in foods to stabilise foods that contain water and oil. You can find many different food products that contain emulsifiers and all of them are listed on the food labels.  

What are additives?

Federal and Drug Administration (FDA), says that additives are any substance used in foods to improve the flavour, texture, colour, and nutrient values performing a diversity of advantageous functions. The emulsifier helps to improve the taste, appearance, and texture of foods. 

What is the legal definition of food additives?

In legal terms, food additives are all substances used in food that can affect the characteristics of the foods, directly or indirectly. This also includes all substances used in any stage of the manufacturing.

What are direct food additives?

Direct food additives are when the use is made for a specific purpose in that food and most of them are listed on the food labels.

What are indirect food additives?

Indirect food additives are when their use is not direct and happens as a consequence of stages of the manufacturing, like the packaging. The food additive will be a part as a trace in the food. So, all materials that contact the food, need to be allowed by federal authorities. 

What regulates the use of additives in the food industry? 

The use of additives is meticulously regulated by the federal authorities of each country. One example is the FDA, which rules in the US. All additives have the maximum limited amount in foods, as they need to be safe for consumers. 

What are the benefits of consuming emulsifiers? 

According to EatingWell, some natural emulsifiers may have health benefits, like guar gum and soy lecithin, these additives can assist in lowering cholesterol levels. Also, xanthan gums and aka gum arabic assist with enhancements in insulin function. 

Does eating a lot of food containing additives be bad for health? 

Maybe, because you will always be exposed to these additives, but there are few studies about them in animals. According to EatingWell, there is a study about synthetic emulsifiers that affect the microbiome of mice, but the amount of additive was four times more than the average human consumes in a day. 

What are the common emulsifiers?

Usually, the emulsifiers are used in processed foods and derivate from animal or vegetable origin. Below, you can check some examples by the name of the emulsifiers following their use in what food, according to research by Miller (2016). To know more about the study, click here

  • Lecithin. Used to make baked goods, margarine, chocolate, instant foods, and cooking spray;
  • Glycerol monolaurate. Used to make whipped topping, bread, glaze, frosting, and cheese products;  
  • Sucrose ester. Used to make ice cream, bakery mixes, bread, frozen dessert, and whipped milk products;
  • Sorbitan esters. Used to make cake mix, cake, cocoa, whipped topping, icing, coffee whitener, and filling;
  • Polysorbate 60. Used to make cake mix, cake, cocoa, whipped topping, icing, coffee whitener, salad dressing, shortening, and edible oil;
  • Polysorbate 65. Used to make frozen dessert, ice cream, ice milk, frozen custard, cake mix, cake, filling, whipped topping, coffee whitener, sherbet, and icing;
  • Polysorbate 80. Used to make gelatin mix, baked goods, ice cream, ice milk, frozen custard, sherbet, shortening, filling, bakery mixes, frying oil, icing, and topping;
  • Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate. Used to make pasta, bread, coffee whitener, and dehydrated potatoes;
  • Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate. Used to make egg whites, bread, and dehydrated potatoes.

Are there any natural emulsifiers?

Yes, there are natural emulsifiers and they have their origin in vegetables. Some examples of natural emulsifiers are listed below, according to FoodInsight. 

  • Guar gum is used to keep a smooth texture, stabilising the ingredients in processed foods;
  • Carrageenan is used to give a gel-like texture to processed foods;
  • Gellan gum is used for a gelling intent, producing fluid gels that are used in different products. 

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we have discussed the question “are emulsifiers safe to eat?”. As well, we have discussed what are emulsifiers, what are additives, what is the legal definition of food additives, what are direct food additives, and other concerns about emulsifiers.  

References

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/2052352/what-are-emulsifiers-and-why-are-they-in-my-food/ Accessed: 05/02/2022

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/overview-food-ingredients-additives-colors Accessed: 05/02/2022

https://foodinsight.org/emulsifiers-in-food/ Accessed: 05/02/2022

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978012384947200249X Accessed: 05/02/2022

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.