By PALLAVI JAISWAL*
Additives are extensively used substances in bakery industries. Substances that are added to maintain or improve the safety, freshness, taste, texture, or appearance of food and food products are known as food additives. Additives are added to ensure processed food remains safe and in good condition throughout its journey from production to consumers.
Food additives can be derived from plants, animals, or minerals, or they can be synthetic. The use of food additives is only justified when their use has a technological need and are added intentionally to perform certain technological purposes which consumers often take for granted. There are several thousand food additives used, all of which are designed to do a specific job in making food safer or more appealing. WHO, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is responsible for assessing the risks to human health from food additives. Risk assessments of food additives are conducted by an independent, international expert scientific group – the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Only food additives that have undergone a JECFA safety assessment, and are found not to present an appreciable health risk to consumers, can be used.
WHO, together with FAO, groups food additives into 3 broad categories based on their function like flavouring agents, enzymes and additives such as colouring agents, preservatives (antimicrobials, antioxidants), sweeteners (appetizers), stabilizers (texturising agent), flavouring agents (flavour enhancers), anti-caking agents (dehumidifiers), food thickeners, gums or hydrocolloids, etc. The need for their use arises due to the fact that numerous benefits are associated with the use of food additives. With this objective, a large amount of these substances, of various chemical structures, have been used for many years.
One of the most extensively used additives in the food industry are Hydrocolloids (gums). Hydrocolloids are often called gums that are added to foodstuffs to control their properties such as thickening or gelling. Hydrocolloids belong to the group of high molecular weight hydrophilic biopolymers and are a functionally used ingredient of food additives in the sector of food and bakery technology. Basically, these compounds help to improve food texture and moisture retention properties and finally, to enhance the overall quality of the products during storage. Hydrocolloids are hydrophilic biopolymers of vegetable, animal, microbial or synthetic origin as used as a functional ingredient of food-stuffs.
In baked goods, hydrocolloids have been used for retardation of staling (bakery foods) and for improving the quality of fresh products. They help to minimize the negative effects of freezing and frozen storage. The most applied biopolymers included are modified starch, gelatin, carrageenans, agar-agar, arabic gum, guar gum, alginates, xanthan gum and carboxymethyl cellulose.
The reason behind the use of hydrocolloids is their ability to modify the rheology of the food system. This includes two basic properties of food system namely, viscosity and texture. Structurally hydrocolloids are a heterogeneous group of long-chain polymers of polysaccharides and protein like molecules and are characterised by their property of forming viscous particles or gel-like structures when dispersed in water. Presence of a large number of a hydroxyl group of polysaccharide structures increases their affinity for binding water molecules with compounds. Further, they produce a dispersion, which is intermediate between a true solution and a suspension and exhibits the properties of a colloid. Considering these two properties, they are termed as hydrophilic colloids or hydrocolloids. The modification of texture or the viscosity of the food system helps to modify its sensory properties, and hence, hydrocolloids are used as important food additives to perform specific purposes. It is obvious that several hydrocolloids belong to the category of permitted food additives in many countries throughout the world.
In baking Industries hydrocolloids (gums) are increasingly have their importance as product improving components. Usually, the addition of hydrocolloids to bakery products improves their stability and quality criteria of increased water absorption, specific product volume, shapes, stability and the viscoelastic properties of bakery ingredients. For example, they induce structural changes in the main components of wheat flour systems so that increases the storage of the product. Hydrocolloids are used either alone or in a combination, to achieve specific synergies between their respective functional properties. The highly hydrophilic nature of hydrocolloids also helps to prevent the growth of ice crystals during frozen storage of products, and the migration of water from the substrate to the coating, which improves the freeze-thaw stability of the components. Additives are used in bakery to facilitate processing, to compensate for variations in raw materials, to guarantee the constant quality, and to preserve freshness and food properties. They are widely used in baked goods to enhance dough handling properties, to increase the overall quality of the fresh products and to extend shelf-life of stored goods.
Gums and hydrocolloids are used to create texture. These are substances that are added to bakery ingredients to emulsify and create an interesting mouthfeel and diversity in texture. They can be used for shelf life extension of cakes and bread, for instance, to control batter consistency, as partial fat replacers, etc. It is obvious that these kinds of substances can be used in the other food industries as well. Along with the increased interest in gums and hydrocolloids for texture modification, there is a growing a sceptical attitude to use chemicals in the kitchen. Many people have come to view hydrocolloids as unnatural or unhealthy ingredients. However, it is important to remember that most gums and hydrocolloids are obtained from natural sources and have a marine, plant or microbial origin. They only have been extracted and purified from these natural sources. However, the World Health Organizations encourages the national and international authorities to monitor and to ensure that food additives are always in compliance with permitted uses only. National committees should inspect the food production, food, marketing, and food businesses, which carry the primary responsibility of ensuring the use of food additives is safe and complies with the legislation.
*Pallavi Jaiswal – Assistant Manager, Quality Control Department, Tropiliite Foods Pvt. Ltd, Gwalior, M.P.