Q. What does EMULSIFIER mean on the label?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 03 September 2013.
Tagged: additives, fat, food labels, FSANZ, salad

A. Emulsifiers are substances which stabilise mixtures and prevent oil and water from separating. In a salad dressing, for instance, an emulsifier keeps the oil and vinegar mixed so they don't separate into two layers on standing.

Common uses for emulsifiers in food products

Emulsifiers are used in baking to help incorporate fat into the dough and to keep the crumb soft and tender. So they turn up in breads, cakes, cake mixes and pastry. They help form an emulsion to make mousses, meringues, ice-cream, mayonnaise, salad creams and margarine.

You'll commonly find emulsifiers in things like:

  • Bread
  • Cakes
  • Margarine / low fat spread
  • Salad dressings
  • Ice-cream
  • Frozen desserts eg cheesecake, chocolate mud cake
  • Coffee whiteners
  • Dried potato
  • Peanut butter
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate coatings eg Ice Magic
  • Caramels
  • Toffees
  • Chewing gum

label_ingreds_emulsifier 

 Many emulsifiers such as lecithin and glycerides are closely related to fats and are considered quite safe. Lecithin (code number 322) is one of the most common emulsifiers used. It's extracted from soy and also sold as a food supplement in health food stores. It's rich in B group vitamins and choline.

Other common emulsifiers are sorbitan monostearate (491), mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (471) and polysorbate 80 (433).

List of approved emulsifiers

Here's a complete list of ALL the 24  approved emulsifiers and their code numbers. Note however that there are only four commonly used ones -  lecithin 322, sorbitan monostearate 491, mono-and di-glycerides of fatty acids 471 and polysorbate 433:

 

322

Lecithin

431

Polyethylene (40) stearate                                                                      

433

Polysorbate 80

435

Polysorbate 60

436

Polysorbate 65

442

Ammonium salts of phosphatidic acid

444

Sucrose acetate isobutyrate

450

Potassium pyrophosphate or Sodium acid pyrophosphate or Sodium pyrophosphate

452

Potassium polymetaphosphate or Sodium metaphosphate, insoluble or Sodium polyphosphates, glassy

470

Salts of fatty acids

471

Mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids

472a

Acetic and fatty acid esters of glycerol

472b

Lactic and fatty acid esters of glycerol

472c

Citric and fatty acid esters of glycerol

472e

Diacetyltartaric and fatty acid esters of glycerol

472f

Mixed fatty acid esters of glycerol

473

Sucrose esters of fatty acids

475

Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids

476

Polyglycerol esters of interesterified ricinoleic acid

477

Propylene glycol mono - and di-esters or Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids

480

Dioctyl sodium sulphosuccinate

481

Sodium lactylate or sodium oleyl lactylate or sodium stearoyl lactylate

482

Calcium lactylate or Calcium oleyl lactylate or Calcium stearoyl lactylate

491

Sorbitan monostearate

 

 

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.