What are stabilizers and emulsifiers?
Great Britain (UK)
The term stabilizer, but also emulsifier, are clearly defined in food law (Directive 95/2/EC). Both type of substances have to be authorized before use. They are categorised as food additives. Authorised food additives are clearly defined substances which have to fulfil strict purity criteria and maximum levels are fixed to protect the consumer. Above all there must be a technological need for their use and a clear benefit to the consumer.
Stabilizers are substances which make it possible to maintain the physico-chemical state of a foodstuff; stabilizers include substances which enable the maintenance of a homogenous dispersion of two or more immiscible substances in a foodstuff and include also substances which stabilize, retain or intensify an existing colour of a foodstuff.
Emulsifiers are substances which make it possible to form or maintain a homogenous mixture of two or more immiscible phases such as oil and water in a foodstuff.
The purpose of these food additives is to maintain consistent texture and to prevent the separation of ingredients in such products as margarine, low-fat spreads and dairy products, ice cream, salad dressings and mayonnaise. Many reduced-fat and low-fat versions of common foods are dependent on this technology. Any recipe that requires the mixing of ingredients that normally do not mix, such as fat and water, need emulsifiers and stabilisers to impart and maintain the desired consistency. Examples include lecithin and mono- and digycerides. In dairy products for example pectin or calcium chloride are used.