What is Methylcellulose (E461) in Food? Uses, Safe, Side effects

What is Methylcellulose (E461) in Food? Uses, Safe, Side effects

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Table of Contents

Methylcellulose (E461) is a viscous, water-soluble synthetic polymer that can be made from cellulose. It is used as an emulsifier in food products, including ice cream and cheese; a stabilizing agent in prepared foods; and as a thickener in salad dressings and sauces. It is particularly used in fruit and vegetable juices, meat glazing and gels, marmalades and fruit pulp drinks for babies. Methylcellulose (E461) is considered safe for general use but should not be used if you have a food allergy to wheat or soybeans.

What is methylcellulose?


Methylcellulose is a water-soluble polymer with many uses, including as a food additive. It is used as a thickener, emulsifier and stabilizer for foods such as ice cream, puddings and sauces. In non-food applications, methylcellulose acts as an emulsifier in pharmaceutical creams and ointments, contact lens solutions and hair care products.

Methylcellulose is typically made from cellulose derived from plants or trees. The cellulose is processed using chemicals to create methyl celllulose. Methyl celllulose has been used in foods since the 1930s and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an additive in 1959.

MethylCellulose Structure


methyl-cellulose-chemical-structure-300x292-7363985-4832124


What is methylcellulose used in food?


Methylcellulose is a water-soluble dietary fiber that is used as a thickening agent in food products. It is made from cellulose, which is the most abundant carbohydrate on earth and can be found in plants, trees, and animals. Methylcellulose has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, improve bowel function and relieve constipation.

Methylcellulose has been approved by the FDA as a food additive since 1963 under the E number E461. The FDA classifies it as a food additive based on its physical properties and its ability to be digested by humans and not cause harm when ingested in small amounts.

What is methylcellulose made from?


Methylcellulose is made from cellulose, which is a natural carbohydrate found in plants. Methylcellulose is sold under different names like methyl hydroxybenzoate (MHB) or methyl cellulose.

Cellulose is a long chain of glucose molecules that are linked together by beta-1,4 glycosidic bonds. It can be found in nature as the structural component of plant cell walls and in cotton fibers. It can also be obtained from wood pulp, which is made into paper.

Methylcellulose is a white powder that dissolves easily in water and alcohols. It has a slightly sweet taste and no odor. Methylcellulose is used in foods as an emulsifier, thickener, stabilizer, gelling agent and binder.

How is methylcellulose made of?


Cellulose is a polysaccharide composed of glucose-containing hydroxyl groups (–OH), which can be substituted with methoxide groups (–OCH3) to form methylcellulose.

This mechanism is the same as that of the manufacturing of sodium CMC.

Most commonly, the manufacturing process for MC involves two steps: alkalinization and etherification.

Step 1: Alkalinization

The raw material cellulose pulp is dispersed in an alkali solution, generally sodium hydroxide, to form alkali cellulose.

Cell-OH+NaOH →Cell·O-Na+ +H2O

Step 2: Etherification

The reaction between alkali cellulose and methyl chloride is carried out under strictly controlled conditions. In this reaction step, the -OH hydroxyl groups on the anhydroglucose monomers of the cellulose chain are replaced by -OCH3 methoxide groups after etherification.

Cell·O-Na+ +ClCH3 →Cell-OCH3 +NaCl

The degree of hydroxyl groups (-OH) substituted can be controlled to produce different MC grades.

Properties


Appearance


The substance is a white or slightly yellowish or greyish odorless and tasteless granular or fibrous powder.

Degree of Substitution (DS)


The degree of substitution (DS) represents the average number of substituted hydroxyl groups per glucose molecule.

To be used as a food additive in Europe, methylcellulose should have a methoxy content of 25% to 33% (while the US Food and Drug Administration requires a range of 27.5% to 31.5%) and a degree of substitution (DS) value between 1.7 and 2.2.

Solubility


In water

MC dissolves in cold water and will generate a clear to opalescent, viscous colloidal solution.

Organic solvents

The chemical is insoluble in ethanol, ether and chloroform but soluble in glacial acetic acid.

Solubility is affected by the degree of saturation.

DS Value Soluble In 
Less than 1.3 Alkali
More than 2.6 Organic solvents
Between 1.3 and 2.6 Cold water, pyridine, aniline, trimethylformamide, benzyl alcohol and glacial acetic acid

Gel and Viscosity


Methylcellulose is a neutral, stable aqueous solution at room temperature. It becomes a gel at high temperatures and forms precipitates at lower temperatures, depending on the concentration of the solution. At high concentrations, gels form when inorganic salts are added.

Reversible Thermal Gelation

The aqueous solution is surface active, forming a film after drying. The film forms a thermoreversible gel that makes gels upon heating over a temperature and returns to viscosity solutions after cooling down.

Methylcellulose Specification


Other Names Cellulose methyl ether; Cellulose, methyl
CAS Number 9004-67-5
Chemical formula

Polymers consist of substituted anhydroglucose units with the below general formula:
The compound C6H7O2(OR1)(OR2)(OR3) is formed when R1, R2 and R3 are each one of the following:

OR 

Written as C6H7O2(OH)x(OCH3)y, where

  • x = 1.00–1.55;
  • y = 2.00–1.45;
  • x + y = 3.00
Molecular Weight 20,000 to 380,000

What does methylcellulose do to the body?


Methylcellulose is a dietary fiber. It is also known as methyl cellulose, methyl hydroxypropyl cellulose and medium chain length cellulose. This product is used as a food additive to improve texture and increase viscosity of foods. It is also used in medicine to treat constipation, hemorrhoids and diarrhea.

In the body, methylcellulose works by absorbing water and swelling up. This makes it easier for people with constipation or diarrhea to have a bowel movement by opening up the colon and adding bulk to stool. It also absorbs water from intestinal contents, which can help prevent constipation if taken before meals

Methylcellulose may also be used in other applications such as paper coatings, textile sizing agents, paper-making agents (also known as paper coating and sizing agents) and adhesives

What’s the uses of methylcellulose?


Methylcellulose is a polysaccharide and cellulose derivative with wide applications. As an indigestible, non-caloric fiber, it can be used in food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Food


The food grade of its thermal gelation, lubricity, stabilizing the emulsion and preventing syneresis is widely used in food processing.

Here are its benefits and functions in some categories of food.

Bakery


Gas retention during baking helps ensure freeze/thaw stability, improve emulsion stability, increase crumb softness, and prolong shelf life.

Confectionary


It can be used as a lubricant for easy spreading, provides a creamier texture, improves spreadability of glazes and icings, and releases clean flavors in coatings.

Frozen dessert


Ice-crystal formation is controlled, resulting in a smooth texture as well as stabilization of emulsions such as those found in ice cream.

Fried products


When MC gels and then fries, it can make the structure of food more solid and reduce the oil intake of vegetarians.

Other food products


Methylcellulose can be used in a wide range of products, such as toppings, salad dressings, sauces and more. It can serve as an emulsifier to stabilize the emulsion and extend the shelf life of these items; it can also function as a bulking agent in jellies, syrups and gums to provide fiber content without increasing available energy value.

Cosmetics


According to the “European Commission database for information on cosmetic substances and ingredients,” methylcellulose can function as a binding agent, emulsion stabilizer, stabilizer, and viscosity controller in cosmetic products.

Pharmaceuticals


Excipient


Methylcellulose is used as an excipient in most forms of pharmaceutical products, such as powders, granules, inhalants and tablets. As a dry binder in the tableting process, it improves compressibility while also serving as a binder or thickening agent in wet granulation.

Laxative


It is a bulk-forming laxative used to treat constipation by increasing stool frequency, water content, and fecal solids.

Is methylCellulose Safe?


Yes, it has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

FDA


Methylcellulose, when used in accordance with good manufacturing practice and the methoxy content between 27.5% – 31.5% on a dry-weight basis, is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). It can be used as an emulsifier, emulsifier salt, flavor enhancer, or stabilizer in food.

EFSA


Methylcellulose (E 461) is used as an additive in some food products, and is listed in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as an authorised food additive and categorized as “additives other than colours and sweeteners”.

Safety re-evaluation in 2017


The European Food Safety Authority concluded that there was no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI) and that there would be no safety concern at the reported uses and use levels for E461.

Authorised Uses And Use Levels


E461 is approved for use in the following foods:Group IQuantum satis (QS)Quantum satis is Latin for “as much as is needed.” It means that a substance can be present in a mixture in quantities equal to or less than those required to achieve the desired effect.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand


MC is approved as an additive in Australia and New Zealand, with the E code number E461.

JECFA


Function Class: food additives, emulsifier, stabilizer and thickener.

What methylcellulose good for?


Methylcellulose is a natural compound that can be used as a thickener or emulsifier in recipes. It is made from plant matter and is non-toxic and gluten-free. In addition, methylcellulose has been shown to have many health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels and cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, regulating bowel movements and improving digestion.

Methylcellulose is an ingredient that has been used for many years in food preparation and medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for use as a thickener in liquid foods such as soups, sauces and beverages.

Methylcellulose can be found in many foods such as ice cream, yogurt, sauces and gravies. However, it can also be taken as a supplement for its health benefits.

Why is methylcellulose used in food?


Methylcellulose is a water-soluble dietary fiber. It is an additive that can be found in foods such as ice cream, yogurt and salad dressing. It is also used in pharmaceutical drugs to treat constipation.

Methylcellulose has many uses in the food industry because it’s easy to use, safe for consumption and has a wide range of applications. It’s also very versatile because it can be used in both sweet and savory foods.

Methylcellulose is used to thicken products like ice cream and salad dressing while also adding texture and body to them. It can also be used as a binder that binds together ingredients in frozen desserts like cakes or pastries so they hold their shape during baking or frying.

Methylcellulose acts as a thickener by holding water molecules together so they don’t disperse throughout the product. This makes the end product thicker and more viscous than before it was mixed with methyl cellulose gel. Methyl cellulose gel has many other uses besides being a thickener, though; it can also act as an emulsifier to help keep oil molecules dispersed within water molecules throughout food products without separating out again into two distinct layers like oil

What is methylcellulose side effects?


Methylcellulose side effects can include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and gas.

The most common side effect of methylcellulose is bloating and abdominal distention. This can be caused by the swelling of your intestines as a result of taking too much methylcellulose. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately for treatment options.

In some cases, methylcellulose may cause constipation, diarrhea or an upset stomach. If this happens to you, contact your doctor immediately.

Allergy symptoms


Allergic reactions may include hives, breathing difficulty, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Is it Safe for pregnant?


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported that in pregnant mice, high doses (26-fold or more than daily dietary intake) of methyl cellulose caused a significant increase in maternal mortality and retarded fetal maturation.

How to find right methylcellulose supplier in China?


If you are looking for the right methylcellulose supplier in China, then the following tips will help you find the best one.

1. Check the supplier’s website and check their product portfolio.

2. Ask questions about the products offered by the supplier.

3. Find out if they are a manufacturer or trader of methylcellulose and whether they have an ISO certification or not.

4. Check their past records as well as their business track record to know whether they have sufficient experience in this industry or not.

Frequently asked questions about methylcellulose


Is it Natural?


No, the manufacturing process mentioned above indicates that MC is synthetically produced and does not occur naturally.

is methylcellulose safe?


Methylcellulose is a safe, natural, biodegradable substance that can be used in many different ways. It is made from wood pulp and chemically treated to remove lignin and other components that would make it toxic or harmful to humans.

In fact, methylcellulose has been used as a food additive for more than 50 years and has been approved by the FDA. It’s also used in cosmetics and personal care products.

Where to buy methylcellulose powder?


One of the best places to find methylcellulose powder is at your local store. Many grocery stores carry this product and it is often found on the baking aisle. If you cannot find this product in your local store, then you should look online or in catalogs for a company that sells it.

There are also many different brands of methylcellulose powder available on Amazon.com and eBay, which may be easier for some people to access than local stores or other online sites.

When to use methylcellulose?


Methylcellulose is a common ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products. It is used as a thickener, gelling agent, emulsifier and stabilizer. Methylcellulose can also be used to improve the flow of liquid products.

Is methylcellulose the same as psyllium?


Yes, methylcellulose and psyllium are the same thing. They are both fiber supplements that can be taken to help relieve constipation. They both have a similar texture and are also very easy to mix into a beverage or food.

Is it Halal?


Yes, the MC is recognised as halal because it conforms to Islamic Law. And some manufacturers have been awarded MUI halal certification.

Is it Kosher?


Yes, MC is kosher pareve. It has met all the “kashruth” requirements and can be certified as kosher or passover-approved.

Is it Gluten free?


Yes, MC is gluten-free according to the FDA’s definition of gluten-free. This means that it does not contain wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains.

Is it Vegan?


Generally, MC is vegan because it is derived from cellulose, the plant-based fiber commonly from wood chips and the manufacturing process does not involve animal matter.

Is it a Hydrocolloid?


Yes, MC is a hydrocolloid and often used as a thickening agent.

Is it a Soluble Fiber?


Yes.

Is it Anionic?


No, polyvalent metal ions cannot combine with it to form insoluble precipitates because the solution is a non-ionic one.

What is it Made Of?


Methylcellulose (MC ) is a mixture of methyl groups with the DS value 1-3, which has been etherified.

Final thought:


Methylcellulose (E461) itself is safe for human consumption. However, you’ll have to take into account the fact that some food manufacturers are using it in moderation to replace even functional ingredients. This is why, if they’re using E461 to a high extent, you’ll want to steer clear of their products. Or use them moderately and with caution.

I may have overlooked some information, and if you have any questions or remarks about methylcellulose E461, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng

Sophia Feng, Marketing Manager of Grade Chemical, specializes in writing food chemical article, custom chemical article, industry chemical blog.

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