Gelatin, characteristics and uses in the food industry

Gelatin is a gelling agent and thickener that is obtained by extracting collagen from the tissue, skin, ligaments and bones of animals or fish. It is a solid, translucent substance, neutral in color, odor and taste. It is considered a natural product, composed of approximately 90% protein, 2% mineral salts and the rest is water.

Gelatin is obtained mainly by prolonged boiling of the remains of pork, beef, fish or poultry. Only the producer can communicate the origin of the raw material. Avoiding gelatin of porcine origin is a complicated task, since the law does not require specifying its origin in the product.

Most of the gelatin produced in the EU is of porcine origin, and in the case of that of bovine origin, its Halal origin must be evidenced, since it is not always Halal. Therefore, only gelatin with its corresponding Halal certificate is valid for Halal certified products.

The lack of information usually found on labels may be due to economic issues, including the importance of Muslim and Jewish consumers in the world.

Image 1. The main raw material for the manufacture of gelatin.

Unlike in the US and Canada, edible gelatin in the EU is no longer considered an additive but an ingredient; therefore, it is absent from the official European lists of food additives and its code is no longer used, although the code SIN428 or INS428 continues to be used in the rest of the countries. Previously, the gelatin occupied the number E441 and later it was transferred to E428.

The most common use of gelatin is edible, in processed foods, followed by gelatin for pharmaceutical use, in the manufacture of capsules, in cosmetics, and, to a lesser extent, its photographic and technical use.

Image 2. Gelatin for food use is generally marketed in powder or in the form of sheets.

Gelatin is unique for its different functional properties. It is a hydrocolloid that can function as a gelling agent, stabilizer, binder, emulsifier, whipping agent, excipient, film and foam former, among others. It is used in jelly beans, chewy candies, chocolates, desserts, yogurts, ice creams, pie toppings and fillings, bread spreads, meat products and many more.

It is found in a wide variety of low-fat products, since by reducing the percentage of fat, an ingredient is needed that maintains the stability and texture of the product, as well as improving the mouthfeel. There is no other natural ingredient that contains, in a single product, all the mentioned and necessary properties. Only a combination of several ingredients could come close to the properties of gelatin, hence its wide and increasing application.

Image 3. Some products that contain gelatin in their composition.

We recommend you watch this video to learn more about the gelatin manufacturing process and its applications:

Layla Balbaki

Technical Quality Auditor