What is Sorbitan monostearate (E491) in food? Uses, Safe, Side Effects

What is Sorbitan monostearate (E491) in food? Uses, Safe, Side Effects


Table of Contents

Sorbitan monostearate (E491) is a clear liquid synthetic emulsifier with E number E491. It is used as an emulsifier, humectant and stabilizer in food. A naturally occurring form of it derived from palm oil could be labeled as “sorbitol ester of vegetable fatty acids” When combined with diacetyl tartaric acid ester, it forms a synergistic combination called dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate. Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone also known as TBHQ or tert-Butylhydroquinone or T-4-Q is a synthetic antioxidant for human consumption and can be found in foods such as baked goods and salad dressings, as well as some cosmetics.

What is sorbitan monostearate?

Sorbitan monostearate is a combination of two types of fatty acids called sorbitol and stearic acid. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that’s produced naturally in fruits and vegetables or synthetically from starch. It can also be manufactured from sucrose (table sugar). Stearic acid refers to one of several fatty acids found in animal fats like lard, tallow and butterfat.

Sorbitan monostearate span 60

Sorbitan monostearate or SM (also known as SPAN 60) is a synthetic, non-ionic surfactant. It is used in the cosmetic industry as an emulsifier and emollient.

Sorbitan monostearate is also used as an antistatic agent in hair care products, as well as being an ingredient in many other personal care products like hand soap, body wash, baby wipes and much more.

Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate

Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate (INCI: PEG-20 Sorbitan Monostearate) is a nonionic surfactant, or wetting agent, used in cosmetics and personal care products. It is the ester of sorbitol and polyoxyethylene.

Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate is a mixture of partial esters of sorbitol with long chain fatty acids containing 20 carbon atoms. The average molecular weight is about 2,000 to 3,000. It is not soluble in water but dissolves easily in oils and alcohols.

It is an ingredient commonly found in cosmetic products such as body lotions and creams.

Yeast without sorbitan monostearate


The ingredient that is missing is sorbitan monostearate, which is an emulsifier used to blend water and oil together. It’s a type of edible wax that provides texture and stability to food products.

Yeast without sorbitan monostearate can be made at home by blending flour and water together. The result is a thick dough that can be used as a substitute for commercial yeast when baking breads or other baked goods.

Most commercial yeast contains sorbitan monostearate as an emulsifier, but it’s easy to find brands that don’t include this ingredient, especially among organic products.

What is sorbitan monostearate made from?

Sorbitan monostearate is a food additive that is used to extend the shelf life of baked goods, confections and icings. It also helps to keep them moist and soft. In addition, it may be used in salad dressings, chewing gum, chocolate coatings and ice cream mixes.

Sorbitan monostearates are produced by reacting stearic acid with sorbitol or a mixture of sorbitol and glucose (disaccharide). The resulting product is then hydrogenated to produce a solid which can be used as an emulsifier or stabilizer.

How is sorbitan monostearate made?


Sorbitan monostearate (also known as SM or Span 60) is a common food additive used to reduce the amount of fat in food products. It is a combination of sorbitol and stearic acid. It is produced by reacting stearic acid with sorbitol in a process called transesterification.


Sorbitol is a common sugar alcohol found in many foods and beauty products. It is also used in pharmaceuticals, such as laxatives and cough syrups. It can be made from corn syrup, which comes from corn starch or cane sugar. The corn syrup is treated with hydrogen under high pressure, which turns it into sorbitol.

Stearic Acid

Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid found in many animal fats. It can be produced by treating vegetable oils with sulfuric acid to remove unsaturated fatty acids, then neutralizing the remaining stearic acid with sodium carbonate (soda ash) or sodium hydroxide (lye).

The salts of these two compounds — sodium sorbitol monostearate and sodium stearoyl lactylate — are used as emulsifiers in many processed foods including baked goods, dairy products and ice cream.




A faint characteristic smell is associated with this waxy white to yellow bead or flake.

Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Balance (HLB)

Since its HLB value is 4.7, it is lipophilic and soluble in oil instead of water. The emulsion will form a W/O type, and it’s a strong emulsifying dispersion that wets.


  • It is not soluble in cold water, but it can be dispersed in hot water.
  • It is soluble in ethanol, mineral oil, and vegetable oil.
Other names
  • Sorbitan esters of fatty acids
  • Sorbitan ester
  • Monostearate sorbitan
  • Span 60
CAS number1338‐41‐6
Chemical formulaC24H46O6
Molecular weight430.62



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What is sorbitan monostearate used for?


Sorbitan monostearate is a common food additive that is made of sorbitol and stearic acid esterified. It is used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickener in foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Sorbitan monostearate in food

It has the following main uses and functions in food:

  • Dry yeast: Sorbitan monostearate is used as a drying agent to keep dry yeast from clumping together. It also extends shelf life by inhibiting microbial growth.
  • Ice cream: For ice cream production, sorbitan monostearate helps prevent ice crystals from forming during freezing, so the texture stays smooth even after thawing and refreezing. In addition, it improves mouthfeel and prevents syneresis (separation of water from fat), which makes for a better-tasting product overall.
  • Margarine: Sorbitan monostearate can be added to margarines to improve texture and mouthfeel when eaten straight from the refrigerator. This allows manufacturers to use less trans fat-free oils than they otherwise would have needed in order for the product to be spreadable at low temperatures without becoming too soft in warmer temperatures or melting quickly on hot toast or bagels.
  • Whipping cream: The stabilizer helps keep the fat from separating from the liquid portion of natural whipping cream.
  • Bread & Cake: This ingredient prevents bread and cakes from drying out and becoming tough. It also makes them easier to slice after baking.
  • Confections and chocolate: This substance helps prevent sugar crystals from forming on candies, chocolates, and other sweets by keeping sugar crystals suspended in liquid form until they are needed for crystallization during cooking or cooling (such as when making fudge).
At the same time, the compound can also be condensed with ethylene oxide to form polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate (polysorbate 60), which is a food emulsifier as well.

Sorbitan monostearate in yeast


In baking baking products such as bread, cake and pizza dough sorbitan monostearate acts as a plasticizer and improves texture by lowering the glass transition temperature of the dough. It improves the shelf life of baked goods by reducing staling (bread) or dryness (cake).

Sorbitan monostearate in cosmetics

Sorbitan monostearate is used in many cosmetic products including skin care, hair care and makeup products to improve their texture and prevent them from drying out. It works by forming a protective film on the surface of the skin or hair, which helps keep moisture in and helps prevent damage caused by friction. It also prevents water loss through evaporation and can help reduce frizziness in hair.

Sorbitan monostearate in pharmaceuticals

Sorbitan monostearate acts as an emulsifier in some prescription drugs such as birth control pills (oral contraceptives), anti-diabetic medications, anti-depressants, antibiotics and other medications that require stabilization during storage or shipping.

Dietary supplements may also use sorbitan monostearate as an ingredient because it helps keep the supplement from separating into its individual components.

Is sorbitan monostearate safe to eat?

Yes, almost no side effects are reported, and the product is safe and has been approved by the U.S. Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).


There are a number of foods in which sorbitan monostearate can be safely used as an emulsifier, sometimes in combination with polysorbate (60, 65, 80):

  • Whipped edible oil topping
  • Cakes, cake mixes, icings and fillings
  • Nonstandardized confectionery coatings, standardized cacao products
  • Vegetable fat-water emulsions used in beverage coffee

Additionally, it may be used as a rehydration aid in the production of active dry yeast at a maximum use of 1%. Also, it can be safely used in mineral premixes and dietary supplements for animals.


In Regulation (EU) No 231/2012, sorbitan monostearate (E491) is listed as an authorised food additive and categorized as an “additive other than a colour or sweetener”.

Safety re-evaluation in 2017


In 1974, EFSA modified the ADI of 25 mg/kg bw per day established by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), and established a group ADI of 10 mg/kg bw per day for sorbitan esters (expressed as sorbitan), and 26 mg/kg bw per day for sorbitan monostearate.

Approved uses


It is listed on the list of applications along with other sorbitan esters sorbitan tristearate (E492), sorbitan monolaurate (E493), sorbitan monooleate (E494) and sorbitan monopalmitate (E495) with maximum use levels of “5000-10000 mg/kg”. However, the use level for dry yeast and yeast for baking is “quantum satisfying”.

Among the foods that may contain it are:

  • Flavoured fermented milk products
  • Beverage whiteners
  • Fat and oil emulsions
  • sugar confectionery
  • Chewing gum
  • Decorations, coatings and fillings
  • Fine bakery wares
  • Emulsified sauces
  • Desserts

UK Food Standards Agency

Emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, and gelling agents are categorized in this category.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

With the code number 491, it is an approved ingredient in Australia and New Zealand.



Function Class: food additives and emulsifier.

Acceptable daily intake: In 1973, the ADI was set at 0-25 mg/kg bw.

What are the benefits of sorbitan monostearate?

Sorbitan monostearate is a food additive that can be found in many foods. It is used to improve the texture, stability and shelf life of certain foods. It also helps keep food from becoming sticky or clumping together. The ingredient can be found in a wide range of products, including breakfast cereals and snack foods like granola bars.

Sorbitan monostearate has been linked to several potential health benefits for people who consume it regularly. Some studies have shown that this ingredient may help reduce weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet. According to these studies, the mice that were fed sorbitan monostearate gained less body fat than those fed the same diet without it. However, more research needs to be done before any conclusions can be reached about this ingredient’s ability to help prevent obesity in humans.

In addition to its potential weight-loss benefits, some research suggests that sorbitan monostearate may offer some other health benefits as well. For example, one study found that mice fed high doses of this ingredient for three weeks had lower levels of LDL cholesterol than mice given a placebo instead.

What are the side effects of sorbitan monostearate?

Sorbitan monostearate is a waxy substance used as an emulsifier in food products, such as ice cream, salad dressing and chocolate. It can also be found in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Sorbitan monostearate side effects are generally mild and include diarrhea, gas and stomach cramps. Rarely, it may cause allergic reactions or cancer.

Sorbitan monostearate cancer


The safety of sorbitan monostearate has been studied extensively, and it has shown no evidence of carcinogenicity in animals or humans.

Sorbitan monostearate allergy


Allergic reactions to sorbitan monostearate are rare but can occur in people who have allergies to other types of stearates. These include:

  • Sorbitan tristearate
  • Stearic acid
  • Myristic acid
  • Fatty acids

In general, sorbitan monostearate allergy symptoms include swelling of the lips and face (angioedema), hives and itching around the mouth or eyes. In rare cases, anaphylaxis (shock) may occur. To avoid these reactions, you should always check product labels carefully before using any product containing sorbitan monostearate. If you suspect that you are allergic to this ingredient or any other food additive, stop eating it immediately and seek medical attention if needed.

Where to buy sorbitan monostearate?

Sorbitan monostearate can be purchased online from numerous suppliers, including Amazon and eBay. It’s also available in health food stores and some supermarkets.

Frequently asked questions

Is sorbitan monostearate natural?

No, sorbitan monostearate is not a naturally occurring compound. It’s a synthetic emulsifier made from stearic acid and sorbitol, which are both derived from plants.

Is sorbitan monostearate halal?

Yes, sorbitan monostearate is halal! The ingredient is made from soybean oil and stearic acid, which are both halal.

Is sorbitan monostearate vegan?

Yes, sorbitan monostearate is a derivative of stearic acid, which is a naturally-occurring fatty acid derived from plant and animal sources. It’s used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.

Sorbitan monostearate is vegan because it does not come from any animal sources. It can be made from vegetable oils like soybean oil or coconut oil, or it can come from other plant-based materials like palm kernel oil.

Is sorbitan monostearate kosher?


Yes, sorbitan monostearate is kosher. Sorbitan is derived from corn, and according to the Orthodox Union, corn is kosher unless it is processed in a non-kosher manner.

Is sorbitan monostearate gluten free?

Yes, Sorbitan monostearate is a fat substitute that is made from vegetable oil and stearic acid. Because it is a synthetic product, it does not contain any gluten and is therefore safe for those with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities.

Is sorbitan monostearate toxicity?


Sorbitan monostearate toxicity is not common, but it can occur.

SMS is safe for human consumption in small amounts; however, large doses may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort like bloating or diarrhea. Long-term use of sorbitan monostearate may result in damage to the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.


From the above discussion, you have got a brief idea about an additive tertiary-butyl hydroquinone. As a matter of fact, you might be able to find more information about it on the internet. A word of caution is all we request – be sure before you use or consume any kind of additive. You can dig deep and discover what the experts say. Be careful, do not blindly trust anything. Finally, avoid taking risks if you are pregnant or are taking medication for another illness.

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng is the author of gradechemical.com, she is the co-founder of the grade chemical network. She has been in grade chemical company since 2017, with a working knowledge of food chemical .

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