Wednesday, 27 August 2014

What is Lecithin?

E322 in more detail
For food use in Europe, Lecithin must comply with E322, and is defined as follows:
A mixture of phospholipids (phosphatides) obtained by physical procedures from animal or vegetable foodstuffs; they also include hydrolysed products obtained through the use of harmless and appropriate enzymes. The final product must not show any signs of residual enzyme activity.
The lecithins may be slightly bleached in aqueous medium by means of hydrogen peroxide. This oxidation must not chemically modify the phospholipids.
In order to comply with E322, regular lecithin must have a minimum of 60% of substances insoluble in acetone. Hydrolysed lecithins must have a minimum of 56% of substances insoluble in acetone.
Commercial sources of Lecithin
The dominant source of lecithin globally has always been and is still the soya bean. It should be noted, however, that the primary drivers for the soya bean industry are the need for soya meal for animal feed and for soya oil. The lecithin component of the soya bean constitutes approximately 0.5% of the bean; for most crushers this is classed as no more than a minor by-product.
More recently there is substantial growth in the attractiveness of lecithins from sunflower and rapeseed.
This growth is driven primarily by two key factors:
  1. The continued and growing demand for certified, non-GM material
  2. A wish to avoid any possibility of allergens
What makes Lecithin special?
Lecithin is the only natural emulsifier. It is comprised of a mixture of 5 phospholipids:
Phosphatidylcholine (PC)
Phospahtidylethanolamine (PE)
Phosphatidylinositol (PI)
Phosphatidylserine (PS)
Phosphatidic Acid (PA)
These polar lipids are the active ingredients (or business end) of what is collectively known as lecithin. In simple terms they are water-loving fats, which means that they have the special ability to make phases, which otherwise would not mix, mix homogeneously.
Types Of Lecithin

Besides the different origins of lecithin, the products can be made available in the following 4 forms:
  • Fluid
  • Fluid lecithin dispersed in a fluid carrier
  • Fluid lecithin dispersed on a powdered carrier
  • Deoiled lecithin (pure powder)
In addition to this, under E322, fluid lecithin can also be hydrolysed.
Hydrolysed lecithin is an oil-in-water (o/w) emulsifier as opposed to regular or native lecithin, which promotes water-in-oil (w/o) emulsions.
Hydrolysed Lecithin is produced by enzymatic hydrolysis by means of phospholipases in order to increase the hydrophilic – lipophilic balance (HLB) of regular lecithin from 3-4 to 7-8 in the case of standard hydrolysis, or even to 9-10 for highly hydrolysed specialties.
Different lecithin grades are used for various applications for emulsification purposes depending on the desired effect and product composition.

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