Is 481 vegan?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is 481 vegan?” and will discuss its composition and properties.

Is 481 vegan?

Maybe, 481E can be a vegan or not. To make E481 (sodium stearoyl lactylate), E481 is composed of stearic acid and lactic acid, which are found in milk. To make the lactic acid, carbohydrates must be fermented (no commercial forms of lactic acid are made from dairy milk). Stearic acid may be made from palm oil, but it can also be made from slaughtered animal fat. That’s why it can be vegan or not.

sodium stearoyl lactylate or SSL is the sodium salt of stearic acid with lactic acid dimer. High-fat baking products often employ this component as an emulsifier and stabilizer.

SSL is an emulsifier. Dietary emulsifiers are amphiphilic molecules that can bind water and lipids and are added to a wide range of industrially processed food products for the purpose of altering food consistency, enhancing stabilization and shelf-life extension (1).

Emulsifiers constitute an important class of food ingredients used in a variety of foods, and are reported to represent approximately 75% of all approved food ingredients on the market. They are found in a large number of food products including baked goods (breads, cakes and biscuits), confectionary (chocolate, chewing gum and caramels), fats (margarines, spreads and shortenings), salad dressings, spirits (< 15% alcohol by volume), and dairy products (yogurt and ice cream) (4).

In what way does Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate is produced?

SSL is made from food-grade stearic acid (mainly from palm oil), lactic acid (from the fermentation of sugar beets or chemical synthesis), and sodium hydroxide.

Based on the reaction sequence, there are two ways to make SSL. Esterification of stearic acid and lactic acid may be used to make SSL, which can then be neutralized with sodium hydroxide to produce sodium salt (2).

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the neutralization and esterification processes are sequential. The following is a summary of the production process: For the mixture, combine an equal amount of water with lactic acid and keep the temperature above the solidification point of water. aqueous Stearic acid

When sodium hydroxide is added to the mixture, the neutralization reaction will occur between sodium hydroxide and lactic acid.


A hygroscopic material such as SSL will get sticky in the damp air. As a result, SSL powder may be mixed with an anti-caking agent (e.g. calcium carbonate) to make it more easily dispersed.

The starting materials, i.e. commercial stearic acid and lactic acid are usually obtained as follows: Stearic acid is obtained from food fats and oils by hydrogenation and hydrolysis. Commercial stearic acid usually contains variable quantities of other fatty acids e.g. myristic (C14) acid and palmitic (C16) acid. The actual fatty acid profile will depend on the source of the fat or oil and whether the fatty acids have been subjected to fractional distillation to concentrate particular fatty acids. Commercial stearic acid used in Europe and Asia Pacific regions is typically derived from palm oil and contains roughly 55 % stearic and 45 % palmitic acids, whereas commercial stearic acid used in the USA is typically derived from soya and contains up to 85 % stearic acid.

Commercial lactic acid is available from two sources. DL lactic acid is manufactured synthetically from petrochemical sources, whereas L(+) lactic acid is produced by fermentation of sugar-containing substrates e.g. sugar beet. Both the synthetic DL lactic acid and the fermented L(+) lactic acid are used in the manufacture of SSL (2).

What is Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate composed of?

SSL is a mixture, and since the reaction is complex, contaminants may be introduced from the source ingredients or created during manufacturing.

There are three primary parts to it:

·         Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate phosphate

·         1-Lactyl Sodium stearoyl phosphate

·         Sodium palmitoyl-1-lactylate



Smells like a somewhat acidic waxy white or yellow powder or brittle solid (flake).


In water

Disperse in hot water, which is insoluble in water. SSL is a hydrophilic emulsifier, however, it has limited water solubility at low temperatures, necessitating heat treatment of the water before use.

In Organic solvents

Ethanol, heated edible oils, and fats dissolve it.

Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate is used for what?

Emulsifying and stabilizing qualities are the primary uses of sodium stearoyl lactylate in the food and cosmetic industries. SSL is a viscosity enhancer and conditioner in cosmetics as well as a dough strengthener and crumb softener in bakeries.

As a dough conditioner and emulsifier, Food SSL is most often used in bread that has a large amount of fat and yeast. Raise the volume of the dough and improve its crumb structure 

Adding emulsifiers to cake batters can improve aeration and fine dispersion of air bubbles. It has been shown to have crumb softening and anti-staling effects, and they also help improve cake volume in baked products (3). 

wheat gluten proteins, starch, and lactylate combine with flour to make a soft and elastic bread; this complex also inhibits the retrogradation of baked goods (aging). The bread will harden if it is not protected by SSL. The crumb softening and anti-staling effect of emulsifiers are consequences of their complexation with starch, which reduces the rate of starch retrogradation. In an emulsifier-starch complex, the straight fatty acid chain of emulsifier molecules are incorporated within the helical structure of amylose. These complex structures prevent further physical changes in dissolved amylose and reduce starch retrogradation (3).

It is also used to enhance the texture, mouthfeel, and shelf life of foods like cookies, crackers, pastries, noodles, and other similar items. Shortening is distributed evenly in cookie and cracker dough by using SSL.

In addition, emulsifiers can be used as a structuring agent in low-fat products. They are able to structure liquid oil into gel-like texture and reduce the total trans and saturated fat content while resembling the physical properties of solid fats. They are also able to form emulsion systems with high amounts of water thus reducing the overall caloric content of a food product (3).

For usage, SSL may either be put straight to flour or dispersed in warm water and then mixed with flour.

SSL may be found in a variety of different foods.

·         Desserts and garnishes made with whipped cream (an aerating agent)

·         Some non-dairy coffee creamers (a complexing agent stable the emulsion)

·         Cosmetics that lighten the skin (a fat replacer)


Cosmetics and personal care products employ sodium stearoyl lactylate as an emulsifying ingredient to stabilize oil-in-water mixtures. In personal care-products, emulsifiers stabilized by lamellar gel structures, such as SSL, increase the availability of water and promote active ingredient delivery to the skin when applied as a topical cream. In addition, they help protect the natural barrier function of the skin (3). Cosmetics that include SSL include the following:

Products for the treatment of the skin:

·         Shampoo

·         Lotion

Is It Safe to Consume Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate?

Yes, the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as well as the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, have certified it as a safe ingredient (JECFA) (2).


For the following food categories, the FDA has authorized SSL as a direct multifunctional food additive that may be used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and surface-active agent (2):

Pancakes and waffles 5% Icings, fillings, puddings, and other garnishes 2% Coffee as a milk or cream alternative Amounts of dehydrated potatoes, snack dips, cheese replacements, and imitations, as well as sauces or gravies, comprise 0.3 percent of the total.


“Additives other than colors and sweeteners” is where E481 (Sodium stearoyl lactylate) is classified in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as an approved food additive (2).

Accepted purposes

SSL is applied as a dough conditioner/emulsifier in high fat, yeast leavened baked goods. SSL is also used as an aerating agent in both dairy and non-dairy whipped toppings and desserts. It has been used in non-dairy coffee creamers where it functions both as a surfactant and complexing agent, and in whitening powder as fat replacer. The maximum allowed levels (MPLs) for calcium stearoyl lactylate (E482) are provided combined with 1000 to 10,000 mg/kg in food. It can be found in the following foods (2):

·         Fermented milk products with flavorings added.

·         Brew whitening agents

·         An emulsion is a mixture of fat and oil.

·         Dried-up mostarda

·         Sweets made with sugar

·         Gummy bears

·         Desserts, icings, glazes, and other components

·         Cereals for breakfast

In 2013, a safety review was conducted. EFSA determined that an ADI of 22 mg/kg BW/day for sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate (E481), alone or in combination with calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate (E 482), could be set after investigations on reproductive toxicity, carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, and others (2). 

However, the consumption of SSL may have negative effects on the gut microbiota. A study investigated the effects of five different dietary emulsifiers on gastrointestinal bacteria in vitro, including sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL), which is common in bakery products, margarines, and desserts. The results showed that 0.025% (w/v) of SSL, 10-fold lower than the FDA approved limit, significantly inhibits the bacterial families, Clostridiaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Ruminococcaceae, and promote the expansion of Bacteroidaceae and proinflammatory Enterobacteriaceae and these results suggest that consumption of SSL is likely to disturb microbiota composition in vivo. In addition, results show that the ingestion of SSL reduced production of butyrate in the intestine. The bacterial fermentation product butyrate is a key metabolite in human health that has been suggested to be protective against colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease (1).

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In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is 481 vegan?” and discussed its composition and properties.


  1. Elmén, Lisa, et al. Dietary emulsifier sodium stearoyl lactylate alters gut microbiota in vitro and inhibits bacterial butyrate producers. Front microbiol, 2020, 11, 892.
  2. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific Opinion on the re‐evaluation of sodium stearoyl‐2‐lactylate (E 481) and calcium stearoyl‐2‐lactylate (E 482) as food additives. EFSA J, 2013, 11, 3144.  
  3. Wang, Fan C., and Alejandro G. Marangoni. Advances in the application of food emulsifier α-gel phases: Saturated monoglycerides, polyglycerol fatty acid esters, and their derivatives. J Colloid Interf Sci, 2016, 483, 394-403.
  4. Shah, Romina, et al. Dietary exposures for the safety assessment of seven emulsifiers commonly added to foods in the United States and implications for safety. Food Addit Contam A, 2017, 34, 905-917.