Ethylcellulose (E462) is a food additive born from a manufactured chemical, cellulose. This additive can be found in many common foods, and is created for the purpose of creating a smooth consistency. This food additive can be found in anything from ice cream to fruit cocktail to chocolate cake. Ethylcellulose can be used in any food as long as it is properly labeled according to FDA requirements, no matter the ingredients.
What is ethylcellulose?
Ethyl cellulose is a polymer with many applications. It is a water-soluble cellulose ether that is used in many industries. Ethylcellulose is produced by reacting cellulose with ethylene oxide and can be used as a thickener, emulsifier, stabilizer and binder in many products.
Ethyl cellulose is the sodium or potassium salt of the hydroxyethyl ester of cellulose, which are prepared by reacting cellulose with ethylene oxide. The reaction gives a colloidal dispersion of microcrystalline cellulose in ethylene glycol or other solvents.
Ethyl cellulose Structure
What is ethyl cellulose used for?
Ethyl cellulose is a cellulose ether made from ethyl alcohol. It is often used as a thickening agent, binder and film former in the cosmetic industry. Ethyl cellulose is also used in foods such as ice cream, salad dressing and pudding. It’s found in many other products that absorb water, such as paint, fiberglass insulation and oil well drilling muds.
Ethyl cellulose is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in foods, drugs and cosmetics. It’s also used in pharmaceutical tablets because it dissolves more slowly than most other forms of cellulose.
What is hydroxyethyl ethylcellulose?
Hydroxyethyl ethylcellulose is an additive used in many products. It’s a type of cellulose derivative that can be made from a variety of natural sources. Hydroxyethyl ethylcellulose is used as a thickening agent in foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes hydroxyethyl ethylcellulose as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), meaning it has been determined to be safe for human consumption by numerous scientific studies.
Hydroxyethyl ethylcellulose is often used as a food additive in combination with other ingredients such as corn oil, lecithin, polysorbates and sorbitan monostearate. It’s also found in toothpaste, shampoo and lotions where it helps keep the product from separating or clumping together when stored for long periods of time.
How is ethyl cellulose made?
Ethyl cellulose is a synthetic polymer produced from either wood pulp or cotton by alkali treatment and then ethylation of the alkali cellulose with ethylchloride.
The manufacturing process for methylcellulose is very similar to that of carrageenan. For more information, see the section on methylcellulose.
Step 1: Alkalinization
Cell-OH+NaOH →Cell·O-Na+ +H2O
Step 2: Etherification
Cell·O-Na+ +ClCH2CH3 →Cell-OCH2CH3 +NaCl
Ethoxyl groups can be substituted to produce different grades of EC.
Ethylcellulose polymer; Ethylcellulose ether
A substituted anhydroglucose unit is contained in the polymers as follows:
The formula is C6H7O2(OR1)(OR2), where R1 and R2 are any of the following:
The powder is highly hygroscopic, odourless, tasteless, and slightly hygroscopic.
Degree of Substitution (DS)
A degree of substitution (DS) indicates how many hydroxyl groups are substituted per glucopyranose unit. With a complete substitution, the DS would be 3.
For food grade ethyl cellulose, the EU and FDA specify that the ethoxyl group content (-OC2H5) should not be less than 44 % and not more than 50 % on the dried basis, which is equivalent to not more than 2.6 ethoxyl groups per anhydroglucose unit.
As a modified cellulose, it is practically insoluble in water. However, it is soluble in ethanol.
In organic Solvents
Propane-1,2-diol and glycerol are insoluble in it.
Based on the amount of ethoxyl present, it is soluble in various proportions in certain organic solvents:
- Approximately 46% to 48%: freely soluble in tetrahydrofuran, methyl acetate, chloroform, and aromatic hydrocarbon ethanol mixtures.
- Suitable for use in ethanol, methanol, toluene, chloroform, and ethyl acetate in a ratio of 46–48% or more.
There is a relationship between the viscosity of a solution and the concentration, temperature, degree of polymerization (DP), as well as the presence of salts or other additives.
Chinese manufacturer Shandong Head claims that the viscosity (5% toluene ethanol solution, 25 C) varies from 4-100 (mPa.s) when used in food and feed.
It is recommended that the viscosity be between 4 and 300 (mPa.s) in pharmaceutical applications such as coating, release control, granulation, binding, and microencapsulation.
What’re the application of ethylcellulose?
It can be used in food for binding, emulsifying, film forming and flavor fixatives. It is widely used in pharmaceuticals as a coating for tablets and capsules; it helps mask the non-desirable taste of drugs and protects active ingredients from degrading before they can be absorbed by the human body.
According to the FDA and EFSA, the following uses are approved:
In 2013, the FDA approved Dow Wolff Cellulosics’ EC for viscosity modification, thickening, film-forming, stabilization, filling, and thermal gelation in following foods at the following levels:
- Grain products
- Milk and milk products
- Nuts and seeds
- Fats and oils
- Sugars and sweets
As a microencapsulating agent and as a coating agent for solid dietary supplements, it can be used in a variety of applications.
Here are some foods it may contain:
|(Solid) dietary supplements||As a thickener or a taste masking agent|
|Salad dressings||As an emulsion stabiliser|
|Pizza preparations||As a barrier layer controlling diffusion of ingredients|
According to the European Commission’s database of cosmetic substances and ingredients, ethyl cellulose can stabilize cosmetics and personal care products by binding, forming films, and controlling viscosity.
The semi-synthetic polymer ethylcellulose is thermally stable, biocompatible, and biodegradable in vivo, as well as forming effective films.
In the processing, transportation, and release of drugs, EC plays a protective role in preventing pollution and destruction.
To prevent ingredients from reacting with other materials, it can be used as a coating. By preventing discoloration of easily oxidizable substances, such as ascorbic acid, it is possible to granulate tablets and other dosage forms that can be compressed easily.
2. Sustained-release Dosage
In sustained-release dosage formulations, ethylcellulose is a common coating material because it does not swell and impedes drug release when in contact with water.
Since it releases the drug slowly, it increases the duration of drug action and reduces the frequency of dosing for some water-soluble drugs, and maintains a more uniform drug level in the body. By improving treatment efficacy and lowering adverse reactions, it achieves better treatment outcomes.
Some applications cannot use water-soluble coatings because of processing problems or water sensitivity.
Is ethylcellulose safe to eat?
Ethylcellulose is safe to eat. It is made from cellulose, which is a natural substance found in plants and animals.
Ethylcellulose is sold under the brand name Natrosol 250M CS by R.T. Vanderbilt Co., Inc. It is used as an emulsifier in food and medicine, as well as in cosmetics and toiletries.
Ethylcellulose was first developed by DuPont in 1930s and has since been sold under the brand name Ethocel. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ethylcellulose as a food additive under the code E422.
According to Annex II and Annex III of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008, ethyl cellulose (E 462) is an authorised food additive in the EU, and it is listed as “additives other than colours and sweeteners”.
Safety re-evaluation in 2017
Based on the reported uses and use levels for E462, the EFSA concluded that a numerical ADI was not necessary.
Authorised uses and use levels
Quantum satis (QS) is a food additive approved for use throughout all authorized food groups.
Please see sodium CMC for the application of Group I.
Typical functions include food additives, adjuvants, bulking agents, carriers, tableting aids, and thickeners.
In 1989, the ADI was set as “not specified”.
What are the possible side effects of ethylcellulose?
Ethylcellulose is a cellulose derivative that is used as a thickener and binder in many cosmetic products, including some types of mascara. It is also used as a film-forming agent in some topical medications.
Possible side effects from ethylcellulose include:
Allergic reactions. Allergic reactions to ethylcellulose include itching, swelling, hives and redness in the area where it was applied.
Dermatitis. Ethylcellulose can irritate your skin. If you have sensitive skin or another condition that causes irritation, you may experience redness, rash and itching after using products containing ethylcellulose.
Frequently asked questions about ethylcellulose
Where to buy ethyl cellulose?
Ethyl cellulose is an organic compound that can be used as a food additive, a binder, and as a viscosity modifier. Ethyl cellulose can be purchased from many online sources including Amazon.com and eBay.
Is ethyl cellulose gluten free?
Ethyl cellulose is a synthetic polymer that acts as a binder, film former, and lubricant. It can be used to replace gluten-based binders in foods, such as bread.
The FDA has approved ethyl cellulose for use in food and beverage packaging materials.
Is ethylcellulose safe?
Ethylcellulose is a safe and non-toxic polymer. It is used in the manufacture of paints, coatings, and other products. Ethylcellulose is a water soluble but non-swelling material that has good adhesion to many substrates. It is used as a thickener, suspending agent, and binder in personal care products such as toothpaste and mouthwash.
Is it Natural?
No, EC is manufactured synthetically and the compound does not exist naturally.
Is it Halal?
Yes, there is no doubt that EC is halal since it is allowed under Islamic Law and meets the conditions of Halal. We can also find some manufacturers who are MUI Halal certified.
Is it Kosher?
Yes, EC is pareve kosher. There is no doubt it will be kosher after meeting all kashruth requirements.
Is it Gluten free?
Yes, As per the FDA, The EC does not contain wheat, barley, or crossbreds of these grains.
Is it Vegan?
In general, it is vegan since it is made from cellulose, a plant-based fiber commonly derived from wood chips, and the manufacturing process uses no animal products. Therefore, it is considered a vegan food ingredient.
This brings us to the end of our discussion on the safety and uses of EthylCellulose. Having read this far you should know that EthylCellulose is a versatile substance with a variety of uses in food processing. It’s safe for humans to consume, but can be hazardous when consumed by pets or insects. You should keep this in mind and avoid using it in pet food or insect traps.
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