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Source and Classification of Food Thickeners

Source and Classification of Food Thickeners


What is food thickener? Food thickeners are macromolecular substances that can be dissolved in water and fully hydrated under certain conditions to form a viscous and slippery solution. It's not only widely distributed in nature but also in people's lives. For example, the jelly we eat, the beverages we drink, and many other foods contain thickeners.

Ⅰ. The source and definition of food thickeners

Most food thickeners are extracted or processed from animals and plants, and the chemical components are mostly natural polysaccharides or their derivatives. Thickeners play a vital role in the food industry. Adding a little bit of food thickeners in food production can improve the physical properties or organization of the food and make the food sticky and palatable.

Ⅱ. Classification of food thickeners

According to the sources of extracts and processing methods, we divide food thickeners into synthetic thickeners and natural thickeners, and each category can be divided into different sub-categories.

1. Synthetic thickeners

Synthetic thickeners are food thickeners artificially synthesized by chemical methods, such as: propylene glycol alginate, calcium hydroxymethyl cellulose, sodium hydroxymethyl cellulose, sodium starch phosphate, sodium starch glycolate. There are also pure chemical synthesis thickeners, such as sodium polyacrylate, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose and so on. Most of them are made of cellulose and starch as raw materials, under the action of chemical raw materials such as acids, alkalis and salts, and are prepared by hydrolysis, condensation, purification and other processes. Another widely used food thickener that is produced when starch fungi or bacteria (especially enzymes produced by them) act with starchy substances.

2. Natural thickeners

Natural thickeners are extracted from plants and animals:

  • Alginate, agar, red algae gum, and carrageenan are made from gums and their salts produced by seaweeds;

  • Gum arabic, gum tragacanth, ghatti gum, karaya gum, and peach gum are made from the exudate of trees;

  • Guar gum, carrageenan, acacia bean gum, tamarind gum, tara gum, cassia bean gum, artemisia sphaerocephala krasch gum, linseed gum, sesbania gum, triacanthos gum, psyllium gum, and seed sunflower gum are made from plant seeds;

  • Pectin, konjac gum, marshmallow gum, Indian aloe extract gum, arabinogalactan, microcrystalline cellulose, microfibrillated cellulose, and okra root gum are made from certain tissues of plants;

  • Gelatin, dry kool-aid, chitin, and chitosan are from animal skin, bone, tendon, milk and other raw materials or their tissues

  • Xanthan gum, nodular gum, aeromonas spp. gum, thrombomycete polysaccharide, nitrogen-fixing bacteria gum, tempeh gum, coagulation polysaccharide, hemimicrobial gum, and mycorrhizal gum are made from microbial reproduction and secretion.

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