By definition, anti-caking agents are anhydrous compounds that are added in small amounts to dry foods to prevent the particles caking together and ensure the product remains dry and free-flowing.
Without anti-caking agents, dry soup, cake and biscuit mixes would be clumped and chunky, cappuccino and hot chocolate vending machines would not function properly, and premixes for manufacturing would not be as easy to use. These agents are often found in milk and cream powders, flour-based mixes, baking powder, table salt, cocoa, and mixed coffee beverages, to name a few. In manufacturing, the addition of anti-caking agents helps prevent bridging during the packaging process, which can reduce production rates.
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Anti-caking agents function by absorption of excess moisture or by coating particles to make them more water repellant. In addition to food, anti-caking agents aid other industries, such as those producing cosmetics and detergents.
In the EU, most anti-caking agents have E-numbers in the 500 range, but some have multiple functions and fall into further categories.
Some of the multi-functional compounds include:
Mannitol (E421) – also functions as a humectant, sweetener, and texturizer.
Alpha Cellulose (E460b) and Microcrystalline Cellulose (E460a) – also functions as a binder, stabilizer, and bulking agent.
Alternatives to anti-caking agent additives seen in some markets include rice hull powder and corn starch.
In January, 2015, the EFSA deemed the use of sodium tartrate mixtures with iron chloride (Fe mTA) acceptable for use as an anti-caking agent in salt, at a maximum use level of 106 mg/kg salt.
In August, 2015, the Grocery Manufacturers Association petitioned the FDA for limited use of partially hydrogenated oils. One of the uses included was as an anti-caking additive.
In September 2015, the EFSA revised their opinion on Friedland mineral clay for feed use. They will now allow it as an anti-caking agent and binder at a level of 2% in all animal feeds.
|Tricalcium Phosphate||E341||Used in powdered spices. Also used as a leavening agent.|
|Mannitol||E421||A polyol, can be added to limit sticking.|
|Powdered cellulose||E460ii||Used in shredded cheeses to reduce clumping|
|Magnesium stearate||E470b||Aids in tableting due to its lubricating properties.|
|Sodium bicarbonate||E500||Also a leavening agent.|
|Sodium ferrocyanide||E535||May be used in salt.|
|Potassium ferrocyanide||E536||May be used in salt.|
|Calcium ferrocyanide||E538||May be used in salt.|
|Bone phosphate||E542||May be added to dry product mixes or sugar (not permitted per EU approved list)|
|Silicon dioxide||E551||Acts as flow agent in dry products. Used in shredded cheese, dried eggs, powdered mixes and spices, and in the filtration of beer. In the US, it has a limit of 2% product.|
|Calcium silicate||E552||Prevents caking in baking powder, salt, and dry mixes. Absorbs oil and water and can be used to contain free oils in spices.|
|Magnesium silicate||E553a||Often used with powdered mixes, grated cheeses, and seasonings.|
|Talc||E553b||Used in rice, tablet coatings, salts, and powdered foods.|
|Aluminium silicate/Kaolin||E559||Often used in sugars, salts, and supplements|
|Stearic acid||E570||Found in both animals and plants. A crystalline solid fat at room temperature, used for coating particles.|
|Polydimethylsiloxane||E570||Useful in coating particles.|
|Iron Ammonium Citrate||In the US, used in salt.|
|Yellow prussiate of soda||In the US, used in salt.|
Note: This is not a comprehensive list, but shows the variety within the anti-caking additive category.
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