Enzymes are biological catalysts, speeding up the specific chemical reaction rate of ingredients in a system. Enzymes consist of protein, and become deactivated with heat application, or less frequently, by extremes in pH. There is an optimum pH and temperature that most enzymes require for best functionality. Many enzymes deactivate at 140°F (60°C), except bacterial α-amylase, which continues to function up to 185°F (85°C). This continued function makes it valuable for bakery applications.
Enzyme Sources and Categories
The sources for enzymes can have animal, plant, microbial or fungal origins. Food enzymes are broadly categorized by the compounds that they act upon. Many food enzymes fall into the hydrolase (EU) category, meaning that chemical bonds are broken with the addition of water in the presence of the enzyme. The subcategories of hydrolase are:
- Glycosidase (EU) – breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. This subcategory includes amylases (EU), which break down plant starches; cellulases (EU) which break down cellulose found in plants; and pectinase (EU) , which breaks down the pectin found in plant cell walls.
- Peptidase (EU) – breaks down peptide bonds in proteins. This class includes protease (EU) and rennet (EU).
- Lipase (EU) – separates fat molecules into glycerol and fatty acids.
Other categories of food enzymes include:
- Transferase (EU) – transfers specific functional groups from one molecule to another. Transglutaminase (EU) is included in this group, which has the ability to bond food proteins together.
- Oxidoreductase (EU) – initiates the transfer of electrons from one molecule to another. This category includes glucose oxidase (EU) , which is frequently used to strengthen dough in bakery applications; and catalase (EU), often used in food packaging to reduce oxidation and in dairy applications to remove peroxide.
Enzymes cross the entire food industry in their function, and this is just a small highlight of the functions they do in specific food segments. In dairy products, enzymes aid in a variety functions, including:
- milk coagulation
- modification of milk proteins
- cheese flavor development
- break down lactose for reduced and lactose free products
- inhibit microbial spoilage during cheese development
In bakery products, enzymes can assist in the following roles:
- aid in improvement of dough structure, yielding an increased volume and finer crumb structure
- improve softness and reduce staling over shelf life
- strengthen dough to make it more tolerant of processing and handling issues
- aid in producing clean label and consumer friendly products with less reliance on gluten, emulsifiers and other ingredients
In oils and fats:
- increase yield and improve extraction
- interesterification of fats and oils to improve their nutritional value and functionality
- reduce protein haze
- improve flavor and preserve natural color
- increase fermentation
In the meat industry:
- improve tenderness
- reduce aging times
In fruit juice and beverage processing:
- increase yield/extraction
- reduce cloudiness and increase clarity
- reduce bitterness
Formulation and Regulatory Concerns
One category of enzymes can span many different industries, so at times it can be a challenge finding the appropriate product for your application. Narrow down what you expect the enzyme to achieve when assessing and choosing an enzyme. Do you want to impact the starch, protein or fat in the system? Look at your processing conditions to determine if the formulation is appropriate for ideal enzyme activity – review your process temperature curves, pH changes, moisture presence, and any other operational changes in your product that could impact how the enzyme will function.
When comparing enzyme suppliers, make sure you are comparing equivalent activity levels – sometimes the enzyme activity assay units can vary from supplier to supplier, or some suppliers may use proprietary units that may be hard to translate or compare.
Enzyme manufacturers use an ingredient like salt, flour, or maltodextrin to dilute their products to a standardized, consistent enzymatic activity level for consistency – make sure the diluent is appropriate for your finished product and may not require additional allergen labeling. Also, be very cautious to use within the appropriate dosage amount for your application per your supplier’s guidelines. Too little or too much enzyme can have disastrous consequences.
Care should be taken to assure that enzymes are handled safely. Prolonged exposure can cause skin and eye irritation, among other concerns. Both the Enzyme Technical Association and the Association of Manfacturers and Formulators of Enzyme Products have created literature to aid manufacturers in safe handling of enzymes. The labeling of enzymes differs from nation to nation as well as product to product, so make sure you are complying with your local regulations.
In May, the European Food Safety Authority completed their safety risk assessment of xylanase, which is only the beginning of their systematic evaluation of enzymes in the coming years. Look here for the EFSA’s press release on this assessment.
With the above information, you should be better informed to have discussions with your suppliers to discover how enzymes can work for you to save time and money when formulating!
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