What is Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids E473 in Food? Uses, Safe, Side Effects

What is Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids E473 in Food? Uses, Safe, Side Effects


Table of Contents

Sucrose esters of fatty acids, or sucrose esters of fatty acids (E 473) are emulsifiers used as food additives mainly in dairy products, chocolate and chewing gum. These emulsifiers reduce the amount of water required to make a smooth and creamy confection, like chocolate. They also facilitate the smooth melting of cocoa solids. E 473 is most often made from sucrose and C18 monoesters of malic, levulinic and/or tartaric acids. 

In other words, sucrose fatty acid esters are a type of sucrose derivative created through an esterification process of fatty acids (C12-C22) with saturated C12-C22 alkanoic acids like myristic acid or palmitic acid. These derivatives help blend oil and water-based ingredients together. They are typically added in small amounts to give a creamy texture to foods. E 473 is not a new additive but has been around for more than 100 years.

What is sucrose esters of fatty acids?

Sucrose esters of fatty acids (SEFA) are a class of emulsifiers that are used to improve the texture and mouthfeel of food products. They are produced by reacting sucrose with an acid catalyst to create a mixture of free fatty acids, glycerol and sucrose esters. The resulting product is typically used as a food additive in ice cream and other dairy products.

Sucrose esters are also known as sucrose polyesters or sucroglycerides. They are made from sucrose and fatty acids from vegetable oils, animal fats or synthetic sources. The resulting product is similar in structure to triglycerides, but contains more than one sugar molecule per molecule of fat.

The most common form of SEFA is made from soybean oil, although it can also be made from other types of vegetable oil.

How is sucrose esters of fatty acids are made?

Sucrose esters of fatty acids are produced by the reaction of sucrose and fatty acids. The reaction is catalyzed by a lipase enzyme, which is found in many plants and also in animals.

The enzyme acts on the sucrose molecule, breaking it into two glucose molecules (sucrose hydrolysis). A fatty acid then reacts with each glucose molecule to form an ester link between them.

The reaction can go in either direction: either from sucrose to fatty acid or from fatty acid to sucrose.

The following are the brief manufacturing processes used by the manufacturers Sisterna and Compass foods:


Sisterna is reacting methyl esters of fatty acids with sucrose:

  1. Creating methyl ester of food fatty acids by reacting fatty acids with methanol and purifying them.
  2. Then, methyl esters of food fatty acids are reacted with sucrose.

Compass Foods

It can also be produced by inter-esterifying sucrose with vinyl esters of fatty acids (same as transesterification). A supplier, Compass Foods, uses this method. The EFSA has approved the safety of this method since 2010.

Fatty acids source

Typically, edible fatty acids are derived from tallow or hydrogenated edible tallow.

A list of the fatty acids that can be obtained from palm and coconut oils follows:

  • Stearic acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Lauric acid
  • Oleic acid
  • Myristic acid

The production of sucroglycerides involves reacting sucrose with edible fats or oils.

What is sucrose esters of fatty acids made of?

Sucrose esters of fatty acids, also known as sucrose polyesters, are a group of fats that are commonly used in the food industry. They are made from sucrose and fatty acids, and are often used in dairy products, ice cream and other foods to enhance the mouthfeel, thicken the product and improve shelf life.

Sucrose esters of fatty acids can be made using different combinations of esterifying agents and fatty acids. The most common combinations are:

  • Sucrose monostearate: Sucrose monostearate is made by reacting sucrose with stearic acid to form a soap-like substance called a glyceryl ester. This is then neutralized with an alkali such as sodium hydroxide and converted into an edible product by adding salt and flavors such as citric acid or sodium citrate.
  • Sucrose monopalmitate: Sucrose monopalmitate is made in a similar way to sucrose monostearate except that palmitic acid replaces stearic acid as the starting material. This results in an emulsifier that has a stronger tendency to form oil droplets than stearic acid does because it has more carbon atoms per molecule than stearic acid does (14 versus 11). This means that it has more hydrophobic groups available for binding with water molecules so that less water is needed to achieve a stable emulsification.
  • Sucrose distearate: Sucrose distearate is added to lipsticks and other cosmetics as an emollient, binding agent and moisturizer. It helps to prevent ingredients from separating or settling out of suspension during storage or use. It makes products feel smooth on your skin and protects skin from dehydration due to harsh weather conditions or excessive washing with soap and water.
  • Sucrose dipalmitate: This is made from sucrose and stearic acid. It is used as a thickening agent in foods such as margarine, ice cream and baked goods.

In addition, triesters may contain minor amounts of higher esters, such as tetra, hepta, or octa-esters.

As opposed to sucroglycerides (E474), which contain mono-, di-, and triglycerides from edible fats and oils.


Other Names
  • Sucrose fatty acid esters
  • SFAE
CAS Number 977019-37-6
Mono- to tri-esters ≥ 80% (Assay)
Chemical formula Variable
Molecular Weight Variable



There are several factors that determine the appearance of the oil, including the type of fatty acid used in production and the degree of esterification. It can be either a colorless or slightly yellow-colored thick gel, a soft solid or a greyish-white powder.

Hydrophilic – Lipophilic Balance (HLB)

The Hydrophilic – Lipophilic Balance (HLB) is a method of classifying emulsifiers, surfactants and wetting agents. It is based on the balance between the hydrophilic and lipophilic (solubility in water and oils) properties of these substances.

Sucrose esters are derived from sucrose, which is derived from sugar cane. They are used as surfactants and emulsifiers in a wide range of foods and beverages. They are usually used in combination with other emulsifiers such as lecithins and polyglycerols. The HLB scale was developed to help predict the effect that an emulsifier will have on the stability of a product. The HLB scale uses a series of numbers ranging from 1-20, where the higher numbers indicate that the emulsifier will have more hydrophilic properties while lower numbers indicate that it will have more lipophilic properties.


There is a variation in solubility between sucrose esters according to their HLB value. Generally, the higher the HLB value, the less soluble the substance is in oils or fats and the better it is soluble in water. Here are some examples:

  1. A high HLB value (11-16) that is soluble in water.
  2. A medium HLB value (6) that is partly soluble in water and oils/fats.
  3. It is sparingly soluble in water and highly soluble in oil/fats, with a low HLB value (2).


  • The hydroxyl group on the sucrose molecule
  • Lipophilic group: A carbon chain associated with a fatty acid molecule.

Sucrose molecules have eight hydroxyl groups which allow them to react with 1 to 8 fatty acids molecules.


Image Source

Sugar comes in powder form if it reacts with higher fatty acids, such as stearic acid, palmitic acid, or oleic acid. A viscous liquid will be produced if the ingredient is esterified with lower fatty acids, such as sucrose acetate isobutyrate (SAIB, E444), produced by esterifying sucrose with acetic acid anhydride and isobutyric anhydride.

What is the application of sucrose esters of fatty acids?

Compared to other food emulsifiers, sugar esters are most widely used for food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and other industrial purposes. Their HLB values range from 1 to 16.



Foods can contain these compounds as emulsifiers, stabilizers or thickeners. For example, they may be used to give margarine a smooth texture or to prevent ice cream from melting too quickly when stored in the freezer. They can also be used as preservatives in food products such as potato chips, chewing gum and vegetables. These compounds are also added to many processed foods such as baked goods and dairy products because they slow down spoilage and give them a longer shelf life. This process is known as retarding rancidity which means the fats begin to oxidize less quickly which makes them last longer before becoming rancid (smelly).


In beverages, SEFA acts as an emulsifier to help keep water-based solutions stable over time. It also improves mouthfeel by helping reduce viscosity and increasing creaminess in milk-based products such as coffee drinks or iced tea mixes.

Formulated milk

The most common application for Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids is in formulated milk products, such as cheese and ice cream. These applications require the ability to produce a range of viscosities (thickness) with very low levels of free fatty acid contamination.

Bakery products

Due to their shelf life, cost-effectiveness and other properties, sucrose esters of fatty acids are used in the baking industry for a wide range of applications. They act as humectants that help retain moisture in foods. They also act as emulsifiers which prevent oil and water from separating out. These properties allow them to be used as ingredients in many baked goods, including cakes, pastries and cookies.

Light cream

Due to their ability to form thick gels at lower temperatures (than normal gels), sucrose esters of fatty acids are often used as whipping agents by food companies who want to create light cream with a rich texture but low fat content. This helps reduce calories while maintaining the creaminess of their products.

Chocolate and cocoa products

In chocolate products, the fat content is usually high enough that it can be used as a solid at room temperature. However, because these fats are not fully crystallized, they are not stable and tend to go rancid over time. The use of SEFA’s allows manufacturers to get around this problem by reducing the amount of cocoa butter while maintaining the same mouth feel and appearance.


SEFA is used as an emulsifier in confectionery products like chocolate, caramels, toffee, hard candies and gums. The sucrose esters are made from a mixture of sucrose fatty acid esters and hydrogenated oils. The sucrose esters act as emulsifiers that prevent the separation of oil from water when added to food products like chocolate or caramel. They also help maintain their texture and stability during storage by preventing crystallization.

Chewing gum

Chewing gum is made up of two types of ingredients: sweeteners and chewable plastic. The sweeteners include sugar or sugar substitutes such as xylitol or sorbitol. Chewable plastic is usually made from hydrogenated vegetable oils such as palm oil or soybean oil. Sucrose esters of fatty acids can also be added to chewing gum to improve texture, flavor and mouthfeel. In addition, they help prevent crystallization because they have high melting points and they increase hardness by forming a gel-like structure when molten in the mouth.

Meat products

Meat products are another important application area for SEFA. It can improve their appearance, increase their shelf life, reduce fat content and make meat products healthier for consumers to eat.


Condiments such as ketchup often contain SEFA as well because it helps prevent separation between the tomato paste and other ingredients in the product.

Cereal bars

Cereal bars are a popular snack food that can be found at most grocery stores. They typically contain a variety of ingredients such as nuts, chocolate chips or fruit candy pieces, which are mixed with other dry ingredients that include oats and wheat flour. This mixture is then baked until golden brown and cooled before being cut into bars and packaged for sale.

The biggest problem with cereal bars is that they tend to lose moisture over time due to exposure to air. This causes them to become stale and taste very dry if not eaten right away after being opened. To prevent this from happening, manufacturers often add emulsifiers like sucrose esters of fatty acids into their recipes when making cereal bars so they will retain their flavor and moisture longer while also maintaining their shelf life.


Another common application of SFA is in the production of gelatins and jellies to improve texture, flavor release and shelf-life.

Surface-treated fresh fruit

A third application of sucrose esters of fatty acids is in the surface treatment of fresh fruit. The SFA acts as an emulsifier, preventing water loss and maintaining a fresh appearance for longer periods of time without affecting the taste or texture of the food product that it has been added to.


These sucrose esters are also used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and stabilizers that help prevent the separation of ingredients during storage and application. They are found in hair care products and skin lotions, among others.

Is sucrose esters of fatty acids safe?

Various agencies have approved it as a safe ingredient, including the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as well as the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives.


Using sucrose fatty acid esters as an emulsifier, stabilizer, or texturizer in food is safe when performed in accordance with current good manufacturing practices.

It is possible for the following food to contain sucrose fatty acid esters:

  • Baked goods and baking mixes
  • Chewing gum
  • Coffee and tea beverages
  • Confections and frostings
  • Dairy products
  • Frozen dairy desserts and mixes
  • Surimi-based fabricated seafood products
  • Fresh fruits


Food additives sucrose esters (E 473) (and sucroglycerides, E 474) are categorized under “Additives other than colours and sweeteners” in the European Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012.

Approved uses

The applications of these products are also listed with sucrose esters and sucroglycerides. There is a possibility that the following foods contain it, and the dosage ranges from 1 to 20 g/kg.

  • Flavoured fermented milk products
  • Sterilised cream
  • Beverage whiteners
  • Fat emulsions for baking
  • Edible ices
  • Sugar confectionery
  • Chewing gum
  • Decorations, coatings and fillings
  • Fine bakery wares
  • Infant formulae

Safety re-evaluation in 2004

The EFSA changed the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for both sucrose esters of fatty acids (E473) and sucroglycerides (E474) from 0-20 mg/kg bw (expressed as sucrose monostearate, set by SCF in 1992) to 40 mg/kg bw/day in 2004 after evaluating safety and toxicity. There are three kinds of fatty acids here: stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid.

Safety re-evaluation in 2010

EFSA has also confirmed the safety of sucrose esters made from stearic acid, palmitic acid, lauric acid, or myristic acid.

UK Food Standards Agency

This item is categorized under “Others”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

The ingredients are approved in Australia and New Zealand with code numbers 473 and 474, respectively.


Sucrose esters of fatty acids

Function Class: food additives and emulsifier.

Acceptable daily intake: ADI “0-30 mg/kg bw” established in 1997.

Further, JECFA classifies INS473 into INS473a (Type I, high-esterified) and INS473b (Type II) according to their esterification levels.


Function Class: food additives and emulsifier.

Acceptable daily intake: ADI “0-30 mg/kg bw” established in 1997.

What are the side effects of sucrose fatty acid esters?

The side effects of sucrose fatty acid esters (SFAs) include diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps.

The most common side effect of sucrose fatty acid esters is diarrhea. Diarrhea occurs in up to 60% of people taking the drug, according to Drugs.com. The diarrhea usually lasts for a few days after beginning treatment with SFAs and can be mild or severe.

Nausea is another common side effect of this medication. Nausea occurs in about 20% of people taking SFAs, according to Drugs.com. Like diarrhea, nausea is usually mild but may be severe in some cases.

Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids Side Effects

Other common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain

Where to buy sucrose esters of fatty acids?

You can find sucrose esters of fatty acids in the personal care aisle at most grocery stores. You can also buy them online from Amazon.

There are several different brands available on Amazon. The two main ones are Behenyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sucrose Esters and Glycerin and Sucrose Palmitate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids Sugar?

Sugar is a carbohydrate that provides energy to the body. Sugars are broken down into simple molecules during digestion and absorbed into the bloodstream. The body uses this sugar for energy, in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Monosaccharides are simple sugars that can be broken down by enzymes into energy for the body. Sugar is classified as a carbohydrate due to its chemical structure.

Sucrose esters of fatty acids are a combination of sucrose and fatty acid esters. These compounds are used in food products to provide a sweet taste without adding sugar itself to the product. The amount of sugar in these compounds is negligible compared to the amount present in sucrose or table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose esters of fatty acids are considered non-nutritive sweeteners because they do not provide any nutrients aside from calories.

How to dissolve sucrose esters of fatty acids before use?

The safety and effectiveness of a drug is determined by its solubility in water. Sucrose esters of fatty acids (SEFA) are insoluble in water. Therefore, before use, they need to be dissolved and diluted in water. The following are some simple steps that can be followed to dissolve SEFA:

1. Add 1 gm of SEFA to 10 ml of water. Stir the mixture vigorously until all crystals have completely dissolved.

2. Add another 10 ml of water and stir again vigorously until all crystals are completely dissolved.

Is sucrose esters of fatty acids vegan?

The answer depends on the source of the fatty acid ester.

Sucrose esters are a type of fat that is used in many foods. They have a slightly sweet taste and are often found in baked goods, ice creams, margarines and other foods. The most common sucrose esters are made with stearic acid and glycerol.

They may be made with animal or plant sources (vegetable) oil.

If they are made with animal sources (such as tallow), then they are not suitable for vegans to use. But if they are made from vegetable oils, then they are vegan!

Is sucrose esters of fatty acids halal?

The answer is yes. Sucrose esters of fatty acids are halal as they come under the category of food additives. In other words, sucrose esters are not considered halal or haram by nature but when they are used as food additives they can be considered halal or haram depending on the source and method of processing.


Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids is being added to food by food manufacturers and food industry for a wide range of reasons. Though it has a variety of uses, the main purpose of Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids is to improve the texture of foods and help with their shelf life. The identity, purity and potency of this compound are subject to regulation under current FDA rules. 

As a matter of fact, there has been no reported case of side effects caused by Sucrose Esters of Fatty Acids in both humans and animals. There has also been no report by CFSAN or International Program on Chemical Safety which shows that this substance may be hazardous to health.

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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