Encapsulation: a means to various ends
Linda M. Ohr
To serve and protect” defines the purpose of encapsulation. It is a process used to protect or separate individual ingredients and control their release in foods. A variety of encapsulated ingredients, like acidulants, salts, leavening agents and nutrients, provide different functionalities in food. These include oxidative and moisture protection, shelf life extension, improved process control, floor time flexibility and taste masking of vitamins and minerals.
The industry uses several methods to encapsulate an ingredient inside a film or coating. Fluid bed coating is the most common. Other processes include spray chilling, spinning disk and coacervation. How the ingredient is released into the food depends on the type of coating and method used. Most commonly, an increase in temperature combined with ingredient interaction initiates the release. Other methods of release are enzymatic or pH effects, mastication or digestion.
The World Of Encapsulation
Encapsulated acidulants are used to protect the protein matrix in dry and semi-dry, shelf-stable acidified sausages during production. Encapsulation prevents the acid from lowering the pH of the sausage which would lead to denaturation of the protein matrix. Use of the protected acid also increases sausage production rate by eliminating the fermentation step.
Gary Zick, owner of Zicks Specialty Meats Inc., Berrien Springs, Mich., uses encapsulated citric acid from Balchem Corp., Slate Hill, N.Y., in Zick Sticks, a snack stick sausage product sold in convenience stores. Working with various types of meat, this ingredient provides a way to consistently lower the pH in each. Zick points out that since he started using encapsulated citric acid, he has found it to have advantages. Besides the consistency, Zick says that the encapsulated citric acid is stable throughout the smokehouse process, and adds that storage problems have not resulted.
In the confectionery industry, encapsulated acidulants, like citric acid, impart flavor and extend shelf life of sanded gummy candies. Marc Meyers, commercial research director, Balchem Corp., Slate Hill, N.Y., explains, “The majority of the time, the candies are packaged in a minimum barrier packaging that gets exposed to high humidity conditions.
“Citric acid is hygroscopic and will absorb moisture. As this occurs, the acid becomes activated and attacks the gelatin matrix of the candy. As the acid hydrolyzes the gelatin, it increases moisture uptake in the product. The candy becomes liquid in appearance, and sticks to the package,” adds Meyers. Encapsulating the acid prevents this from happening.
Encapsulation has found its way into infant formulas. Meyers explains that sensitive ingredients like iron and copper, which are present in milk-based formulas, can be encapsulated. This prevents these catalysts from interacting with milk fat and developing oxidized off-odors and flavors.
Fortification of baked goods has been made easier with Balchem’s newest encapsulated ingredient, bake-stable CAP-SHURE[R] VITAMIN-C. Vitamin C, which is heat labile, is encapsulated with a heat stable protective coating. Meyers says that this can be used in baked bread or other baked goods because of its ability to survive baking temperatures. The Nutrition Labeling & Education Act of 1990 requires vitamin C to be listed on labels. Most baked goods report 0% vitamin C because of its instability in heat. By encapsulating vitamin C, food processors can claim their baked goods are fortified.
Offered through Balchem Corp. is its line of CAP-SHURE[R] encapsulated ingredients. All serve to protect food matrices, prevent unfavorable organoleptic changes, extend shelf life, mask off flavors, fortify foods, and so on, and so on.
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