E471: what you need to know about this food additive


E471 is also known as mono and diglycerides of fatty acids. It is part of the long list of food additives. A food additive is a compound added to marketed food products with the aim of improving the various criteria of the product.

E471 is very widely used in the food industry as it is a cheaper alternative to vegetable oils and animal fats. It is added mainly as a texture agent. Clearly, this additive improves the characteristics and presentation of the product to make it more attractive to consumers.

Focus on the E471 additive.

Additive E471: what are its characteristics?

E471 is the code given to the food additive which is made up of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids. This additive is obtained synthetically by glycerolysis. In this mechanism, the chemical bonds are broken via a reaction with glycerol which can be made from animal fats (pork, beef, etc.) or from vegetable fats (soya, corn, rapeseed, etc.). Whatever the origin, the composition is identical.

E471 comes in different forms depending on its origin. In general, it looks like a transparent creamy colorless mass. But it can also be liquid, oily in appearance and brown in color or more solid, waxy in appearance or in powder form, white in color. Its presence in the product does not change the taste or smell of the product.

This additive is used essentially as a texture agent in order to improve the structure of the foodstuff in question. It can also be used as an emulsifier, coating agent or gelling agent. This additive is excluded from the organic food chain.

Additive E471: everything you need to know

Family Lipids
Classification Texture Agent
Authorized in Organic No
Special diets Gluten free
Toxicity Moderate

Additive E471: what are the known risks?

Is it dangerous for health?

The consumption of this additive is often considered safe for our health. But as with most food additives, excessive consumption is, necessarily, not without consequences for the body. Its excess can cause adverse effects at the gastric level or other potential serious consequences such as hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis or diabetes.

Clearly, no study really shows the toxicity of this additive. As with all additives, it is not dangerous to occasionally consume processed foods that have additives in their composition. However, what is strongly discouraged is to consume too much and on a very regular basis.

What are the regulations in France?

The E471 additive is authorized in France. This additive is listed in the Codex Alimentarius as an emulsifier and can be added to a wide category of food at any dose deemed useful by the manufacturer. It is also one of the most widely used emulsifiers. The Codex Alimentarius is a set of standards adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission to protect the health of consumers.

Being relatively harmless, it has no Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). Indeed, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) mentions that “[…] the additive “mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids” (E 471) does not present any safety risk at the doses usually encountered “.

In which products is it used?

The E471 additive is obviously found in food products where, as an emulsifier, it is used to lighten the dough of pastries for example or to introduce a large quantity of water to have a smoother dessert cream.

It is also found in cosmetic products such as moisturizing milk or make-up remover and in certain pharmaceutical preparations.

Main functions

Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids are used as emulsifiers, gelling agents, antifoaming agents or as stabilizers in many foodstuffs. Their functions are, for example, to better retain the humidity of pasta or potato products. They also make it possible to obtain the gelatinous textures of jams, to improve the spreadability of vegetable butters or even to improve the aeration of ice creams.

Where do we find it?

In view of all the functions of the E471 additive, it is found in a lot of products such as:

  • bread, industrial pastries, soft cakes or biscuits or other bakery products;
  • dessert creams or other dairy products where the additive essentially makes it possible to obtain a firmer texture and a lower fat content;
  • fatty substances such as oils, creams, vegetable butters, mayonnaise or other industrial sauces;
  • cocoa and chocolate products;
  • industrial jam;
  • processed cereals;
  • and even in some infant formulas.

Learn more about additive E471

The origin of this additive is very often vegetable but it can very well come from animals. Its composition is identical in both cases and the origin is not necessarily indicated on the packaging. Therefore, the consumption of products containing this additive is not suitable for people who do not consume animal products unless it is certified of vegetable origin.

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