Silicas: A Free Flow Additive for the Food Industry

Global food and beverages industry posed many challenges in order to produce high quality food ingredients and finished products. In food and beverages sector, nano-sized silica is being used in food packaging industry to achieve high quality finished food product and also used as various kinds of additives for maintaining the quality of foods. Its application is quite relevant in animal feed and human food sector acting as a carrier for aromas.

In food and beverages industry caking and lumping of products can cause serious problems for the manufacturers during production, processing and storage. This major problem is solved by the use of specialty food additives like precipitated silica which can be used as anticaking agents, absorbing fats and oils to prevent non-aqueous bridging between various particles. For example chili powder even after prolonged storage remains free flowing due to the addition of minute amount of precipitated silica in it. Moreover precipitated silica also helps in temperature related caking issues and performs well to protect the food items even at odd temperatures. Only 0.2% to 1% of silica addition can act as an effective anti-caking agent for powdered foods and food ingredients which can be easily maintained in free flowing condition during handling, storage and transportation.

But according to generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) silicon-di-oxide can be added up to 2 % by weight as direct food additive for anti-caking, micro-encapsulation and many more.

The main constraint is the possible migration of silica nanoparticles from packaging materials into foods and their simultaneous toxicological effect on human body. But the use of nano-sized silicates helps in improving antimicrobial and mechanical properties of the packaging products.

Apart from all the prevailing applications like automobiles, adhesives and sealants and others food and beverages is the major sector that generates most of the revenue in precipitated silica across all regions due to its various properties as food additives and also as ingredients for packaging products.