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Thickener is a food additive with a wide range of uses in the food industry. Food thickeners usually refer to macromolecular substances that can be dissolved in water and fully hydrated under certain conditions to form a viscous, slippery, or jelly liquid, also known as food glue. The amount of thickeners for food that needs to be added to food is low, usually a few thousandths, but it can effectively and economically improve the stability of the food system. Most of its chemical components are natural polysaccharides and their derivatives (except gelatin, which is composed of amino acids), which are widely distributed in nature. So far, there are more than 40 kinds of thickeners used in the food industry in the world. According to their sources, they can be roughly divided into four categories.
The function of the modifier made from the exudate of different plant epidermal damage is beyond the reach of synthetic products. Its composition is a polysaccharide derivative condensed by glucose and other monosaccharides. In their polyhydroxy molecular chain, a certain number of oxidizing groups that affect their properties are interspersed with a certain number of oxidizing groups. These oxidizing genes account for a large proportion of hydroxyl groups. These hydroxyl groups often exist in the form of calcium, magnesium, or potassium salts but not in free hydroxyl groups. Acacia gum and karaya gum belong to this type of thickener.
In many cases, thickeners are made from terrestrial and marine plants and their seeds. The water-soluble polysaccharides in them are similar to the exudate of plants after stimulation. They are prepared through sophisticated technical processing, including seed selection, planting, seed collection, and processing, all with a set of scientific methods. As animal and plant exudates, these thickeners for food are salts of polysaccharide acids with complex molecular structures. Commonly used such thickeners are guar gum, carrageenan, alginate and so on.
This kind of thickener is extracted from animal skin, bone, tendon, milk, etc. Its main ingredient is protein, and the varieties include gelatin, casein, and so on.
This thickener can be divided into two categories according to its processing technology: one is made with cellulose and starch as raw materials, through hydrolysis, combination, purification, and other processes under the action of acid-alkali, salt, and other chemical raw materials. Its representative varieties include sodium carboxymethyl cellulose modified starch, propylene glycol alginate and so on. The second is another kind of food thickener with wide application, such as xanthan gum, which is produced when fungi or bacteria (especially the enzymes produced by them) interact with starch substances. It decomposes almost all starch into monosaccharides, and then these monosaccharides undergo a polycondensation reaction and then condense into new molecules.