Propylene Glycol is an odorless and colorless liquid, usually used as solvent and wetting substance. It is a popular ingredient in shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and cosmetics. While this alcohol-based but non-toxic substance serves as a chemical addition to non-food products, it is also a possible additive to processed food.
Ice Cream is one of the most popular desserts enjoyed worldwide. The use of propylene glycol in ice cream as an antifreeze product prevents ice crystals from developing in this treat. It also helps ice cream retain its shape once packed as well as maintain its creamy texture. However, the presence of propylene glycol in ice cream has created controversy among ice cream lovers because anti-freeze is typically used in automobile radiators.
Propylene glycol acts as a humectant in some food items. A humectant is a component that preserves moisture. The most common humectant found in food items is in the artificial sweetener Sorbitol. Diabetes sufferers use artificial sweeteners because their bodies cannot process regular sugar. Propylene glycol creates an effect that prevents the development of bacteria and molds. This effect warranted the addition of propylene glycol to Sorbitol because it helps maintain the product’s hygienic quality. In essence, it also acts as a preservative that extends the product’s shelf life.
Propylene glycol is also present in food stabilizers. Food stabilizers maintain the homogenous state of mixtures. The most common food stabilizer with propylene glycol is alginate, an additive used in icings. Propylene glycol also acts as an emulsifier that maximizes the ability of the icing to foam. Icings are essential in cake design and other pastry products such as packaged cupcakes and muffins. These pastries use icings to make their products appear more enticing to consumers.
Typically, a soft drink contains carbonated water, sweetener, cola nut, caffeine, acid and flavorings. Soft drinks use propylene glycol as an ingredient because the compound maintains the suspension of fatty acids in the liquid. Suspension of the fatty acids helps preserve taste quality. Furthermore, propylene glycol is an ideal additive because of its ability to act as a flavor carrier and stabilizer. This property of the chemical compound enables soft drink producers to ensure optimum flavor during storage for later consumption. Propylene glycol’s inherent ability to function as emulsifier, stabilizer, and bacteria inhibitor as well as its flavor retention properties make it an ideal component for soft drinks.
References and ResourcesDOW: Food Industry
DOW: Food and Flavorings
ORganized Wisdom: Research Notes on Humectant
Dog Food Ingredients: Propylene Glycol – A Safe Dog Food Ingredient?