Calcium propionate is the calcium salt of propionic acid. Another commonly used name for calcium propionate is calcium propanoate.
Propionic acid is a natural acid present in small quantities in many foods. In fermented foods, however, propionic acid can be present in high concentrations because it is produced by fermentation bacteria. Also, the bacteria in the large intestine produce propionic acid.
Chemical Structure and Properties
The chemical structure of calcium propionate is Ca(CH3CH2C02) and has a molecular weight of 186 g/mol. It is a white powder and soluble in cold and hot water.
Calcium propionate can be manufactured in various ways. It can be extracted from dairy fermentation products such as whey, in which it is produced by propionic producing bacteria such as Propionibacterium but can also be manufactured chemically from propionitrile and calcium hydroxide. This last production method was GRAS certificied (PDF) in 2004. This last one is the most commonly used method for the commercially available additive.
Functionality in Food
Calcium propionate is used as preservative or antimicrobial, mainly against fungi. Typical usage levels are at 0.1-0.4%. It is effective at neutral pH.
Calcium propionate has a beneficial side effect in breads. Calcium ions are necessary for the enzyme α-amylase to break down the starches in bread, making them available for the yeast top grow, and improving the texture of the bread. If enough of the amylose portion of starch is converted into sugar, retrogradion of bread is slowed down or prevented.
There is no use limit give in food use besides GMP, but cost and off-flavors will limit the amount of calcium propionate used.
Calcium propionate is used in bakery products. cheeses, confections and frostings, gelatins, puddings and fillings, and jams and jellies. As it can be produced by bacteria used in dairy production, no need for labeling might be required in some applications.
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