Stabilizers

Different foods have different consistencies and textures. No two stabilizers, thickeners or gelling agents are exactly the same and one will generally be more effective in a particular application than another. For example, gelatin produces a soft elastic texture, whereas agar produces a short brittle texture.

Processing conditions also vary widely from one food to another. For example, some foods require a hot setting gelling agent, e.g. pectin; others a cold setting agent, e.g. alginate.

Gums will also interact with other food components which will make them suitable for certain applications. Carrageenan, for example, will react uniquely with milk proteins to form a soft gel, effective in preventing cocoa particles settling out in chocolate milk. In acidic milk products, pectin and carboxymethylcellulose will stabilize the milk proteins during pasteurization.

A mixture of stabilizers is frequently more effective than any one used alone, especially in ice cream manufacture.
In addition to carbohydrate-based stabilizers and gelling agents, sodium and potassium phosphates can also provide and enable stabilization and gelation of various food systems.  In dairy systems, phosphates providing a stabilization impact on the casein protein (ex. retorted milk) during heat-treatment and storage, improving the quality and shelf-life.

The iron and copper sequestering properties of ortho and di-phosphates provide foam stabilization and improved volume (whippability) for frozen or dried egg products.

Phosphates also have an impact on gelation of dairy-based products.  They are able to form a gelly with milk without heat-treatement and are an essential part of instant-pudding formulas to provide this gelling-effect.

Stabilizers have the ability via both muscle protein extraction and hydration to bind both muscle portions/ particles and moisture to form a stable processed meat product, and the capability to provide an emulsification impact in a wide range of foodstuffs including dairy, egg, and meat-based products. Water and fat-separation can be prevented.

Phosphates in particular play an important role in providing an emulsification / stablization function in comminuted (finely ground) meat, poultry, and seafood products such as bologna, frankfurters, mettwurst, nuggets, etc. Soluble diphosphates are used to provide a meat protein  ̎cutter̎ function whereby the pyrophosphate interacts with the actomyosin muscle protein complex to cause a cleaving of the 2 meat proteins, actin and myosin.  This action coupled with the synergistic impact of salt and the phosphates results in an unfolding of the the muscle or myoproteins. It is the extracted myosin protein that provides an emulsification function between the fat and water phase of the meat batter. When cooked, the stabilized emulsion complex remains intact with no fat rendering and minimal moisture loss.
This means that sausages produced with suitable stabilizers  will have less fat and water separation compared to products without stabilizers.


Starch is a carbohydrate extracted from agricultural raw materials which is widely present in everyday food applications. It is the most important carbohydrate in the human diet.

The starch molecule consists of a large number of glucose units joined by glycosidic bonds. It is produced by all vegetables as an energy store. In Europe starch is extracted almost exclusively from potatoes, wheat and maize.

Starch products fall broadly into three categories:

  • Native starch
    Pure starch (native starch) is a food ingredient that is insoluble in cold water or alcohol and it is used widely in the food industry primarily for binding and thickening purposes.
     
  • Modified starches
    Pure starch can then be modified to create ‘modified starches’ which are food additives with the main function of adapting the starch to the technological constraints resulting from food processing such as e.g. cooking, freezing/thawing, canning or sterilisation, and from food preparation (microwavable foods, instant preparations, etc). The various modifications of starch make it possible to obtain:
    • Easier food preparation
    • Better preservation of food
    • Better stability of processed food
       
  • Starch sweeteners/Glucose Syrups
    Starch is also frequently converted into starch sweeteners and sugars, such as malotdextrins, glucose syrups and dextrose. These food ingredients are widely used in the food, beverage and confectionery industries. They contribute sweetness, texture, colour stability and flavour to foods.

For more information on starch products, please visit the AAF website here (website of the European starch industry association).

Watch the Danish Association Ingredients Forum’s video about Stabilizers:

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