Emulsifiers, also known as surfactants, are often added to processed foods to improve stability, texture, or shelf life. These additives are regulated by national agencies, such as the FDA, or multi-national authorities, such as the EEC or WHO. The amphiphilic molecules function by assisting the dispersion of mutually insoluble phases and stabilizing the resulting colloids, emulsions, and foams.
Emulsifiers can interact with other food components such as carbohydrates, proteins, water, and ions to produce complexes and mesophases. These interactions may enhance or disrupt structures and affect functional properties of finished foods. In dairy processing, small molecule emulsifiers may displace dairy proteins from oil/water and air/water interfaces, which affects stability and properties of the foams and emulsions. In baked products, emulsifiers contribute to secondary functionalities, such as dough strengthening and anti-staling.
Synthetic food emulsifiers suffer from the stigma of chemical names on a product’s ingredient statement. Modern consumers are seeking products that are “all natural.” Fortunately, there are a number of natural ingredients that are surface-active, such as lecithin, milk proteins, and some protein-containing hydrocolloids. Mayonnaise, for example, is stabilized by egg yolk. This book can serve as both a guide for professionals in the food industry to provide an understanding of emulsifier functionality, and a stimulus for further innovation. Students of food science will find this to be a valuable resource.