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Food technological uses and applications

The chemical properties of ascorbic acid provide a wide range of industrial applications. The uses of ascorbic acid or vitamin C depend on its chemical properties as an antioxidant or on its health-related properties. About one-third of total production is used for vitamin preparations in the pharmaceutical industry (vitamin C). The rest is mainly applied as an additive to food and feed to enhance product quality and stability (ascorbic acid).

This means that ascorbic acid added to foodstuffs during processing or before packing protects color, aroma and nutrient content. This use of ascorbic acid does not depend on its vitamin action. In meatprocessing ascorbic acid makes it possible to reduce both the amount of added nitrite and the residual nitrite content in the product and to preserve the color of the meat product. The addition of ascorbic acid to fresh wheat flour improves its baking qualities, thus saving the 4-8 weeks of maturation flour would normally have to undergo after milling. Most important in baking is the dough-strengthening effect of ascorbic acid in order to prevent the collapse of the dough during fermentation and baking steps.

Ascorbic acid and related product forms are mainly used for the following functions in the food industry:

Physiological functions (as a nutrient)

For fortification of food and beverages:

  • As pure substance
  • In blends (premixes)

Technological functions

For various technological processes as a food additive:

  • Antioxidant in aqueous systems (ascorbic acid and ascorbates)
  • Retardation of oxidative rancidity for fats and oils (ascorbyl palmitate)
  • Curing agent in meat processing to inhibit nitrosamine formation (ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate)
  • Improvement of wheat-flour and dough quality for bread baking (ascorbic acid only)
  • Protection from enzymatic browning in processed fruits and vegetables
  • Increased clarity of wine and beer

All these applications were introduced many decades ago. In most of these technological applications our customers have accumulated specific know-how and experience.

In many countries including Europe and the United States, ascorbic acid may not be added to fresh meats, because it prevents discoloration and may thus give a false appearance of freshness. Ascorbic acid, its salts, and ascorbyl palmitate are registered food additives in the European Community and classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substances by the FDA.