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October 3, 2011
How Anticaking Ingredients Promote The Degradation, Not Stabilization of Foods

Instead of protecting certain nutrients from moisture, anti-caking agents in ingredient blends may in-fact accelerate the breakdown of beneficial compounds like vitamin C, say researchers.

In an effort to understand how anti-caking agents protect substances such as vitamin C from humidity, researchers blended different anti-caking agents with powdered sodium ascorbate, a common form of vitamin C, and were exposed to different relative humidities.

Writing in the Journal of Food Science, the researchers from Purdue University, USA, found that the use of anticaking agents additives placed in powdered or granulated materials to prevent spoilage or the formation of lumps from moisture damage significantly affected the chemical stability of the vitamin C suggesting that foods made with powdered vitamin C may lose the vitamin's nutritional and chemical properties at a lower humidity than previously thought.

"The additives that the food industry puts in to make these powders more stable didn't help the vitamin C, and in some cases actually made things worse," said Rebecca Lipasek, who worked on the research.

"No anticaking agent improved the chemical stability of the vitamin, and most caused an increase in chemical degradation even if physical stability was improved," they added.

Mauer and her team explained that although the current research focused on the stability of vitamin C, it is possible that anticaking agents could "greatly affect" other chemically labile ingredients that have a high affinity for moisture (deliquescent ingredients).

"I really thought some of those anti-caking agents would help, but they didn't," Mauer commented.

C for stability?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is often fortified into foods and beverages, said Mauer and her colleagues, adding that the nutrient and is usually distributed in powdered form.

"It is often added to foods in forms such as ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate not only for nutritional value and label claims but also for stability of the food product ... Vitamin C is [also] known to function as a preservative, antioxidant, colour fixing agent, and nutrient," they explained.

To maintain its functionality, vitamin C must however be reasonably stable. Yet the researchers noted that many studies refer to vitamin C as one of the most unstable vitamins added to foods.

"Formulation has been shown to significantly affect moisture sorption and chemical stability of deliquescent ingredients in powder blends," they noted, adding that as a result anticaking agents are often added to food systems to improve the physical properties and stability.

However, they noted that very little information is available on the effects of anticaking agents on both the physical and chemical stability of deliquescent ingredients.


To investigate the effects of anticaking agents on vitamin C stability, the research team blended a variety of agents – including calcium phosphate, calcium silicate, calcium stearate, corn starch, and silicon dioxide – with powdered sodium ascorbate, and exposed them to different relative humidity.

The team noted that it is normally presumed that sodium ascorbate dissolves at 86% relative humidity and is stable below that level. Some anti-caking agents, however, caused the degradation to begin at lower humidity levels, they reported.

Storage humidity, time, and anticaking agent type and ratio all significantly affected moisture sorption and vitamin C stability, said Mauer and her colleagues.

The problem, explained the Mauer, lies with the chemical properties of the anticaking agents themselves, noting that the water-repellent anticaking agents are mobile and so can clump together, leaving vitamin C exposed and susceptible to degradation.

Source: Journal of Food Science


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