Articles on health and science matters that affect our daily lives

What Is Silicon Dioxide?

What Is Silicon Dioxide?

Silicon Dioxide: What Is It? What’s It Good For? And Do We Need It?

Ever wondered what that small packet you find in food or supplement bottles is? You know, the one that says, “Do Not Eat” even though it’s found with your food? Well, that’s called a desiccant. Its primary purpose is to absorb excess moisture so fine food particles don’t clump together (the way sugar does).

Its active ingredient? Silicon dioxide, more commonly known as silica, but what is silicon dioxide? Let’s delve into this and other questions.

What is Silicon Dioxide?

Chemically, silicon dioxide is a type of quartz, the fusion of the elements silicon (Si) and oxygen (O). It is one of the more abundant substances on Earth, making up 59 percent of the crust. If you’ve been to the beach before, then you will have seen silica. It’s just that it has a different name there: sand

And even though it’s a “rock,” you’ll be surprised to know that silica is also found in organisms, too. Plants, animals and, yes even us, have trace amounts of it. Chances are you’ve eaten it regularly since everything from vegetables to oats have it.

What Does It Do?

Silicon dioxide is a common substance used in a variety of industrial applications. Everything from ceramics to glass use it in one form or another. In the food industry, silica is most often used as an anti-caking agent. Many foodstuffs, such as sugar and flour, tend to clump together in moist conditions.

Moisture also promotes bacterial growth and can shorten a product’s shelf life. Silicon dioxide prevents this by absorbing excess moisture from the atmosphere. It can be mixed straight into the food or separated into its own container, as is the case with the desiccant pack.

Is Silicon Dioxide Natural or Synthetic?

Since it’s pretty abundant, commercial silica is often derived from natural sources. Natural quartz is obtained from sand mining and then crushed or milled. Further processing may be needed to create purer or finer silica, depending on the end-use.

Is Silicon Dioxide Safe to Consume?

With an artificial sounding name like silicon dioxide, people tend to wonder if it’s safe to eat. The good news is that it is. Health Canada has classified silicon dioxide as food safe. As we mentioned, it is a naturally occurring substance in the body. Besides, any excess silica that we accumulate in the body doesn’t stay there. Instead, it’s flushed out through our kidneys.

It’s also worth knowing that there are many types of silicon dioxide. Rest assured that the kind added into our food isn’t the same one used in making glass, for instance.

Is Silicon Dioxide a Carcinogen?

You might encounter some experts saying that silicon dioxide can cause cancer. While this is true, that only occurs when you breathe in high doses of it. This is the case with certain occupations, such as mining, construction, and sandblasting. When found in food, silica can’t cause lung damage.

Final Thoughts

Silicon dioxide might sound intimidating, but it’s not. It’s a perfectly safe food additive that contributes to food lasting longer and being more reliable to consume.

What Is Food Formulation?

What Is Food Formulation?

You May Have The Best Recipe in the World, But Have You Really Perfected Your Food Product?

Ever wondered what went into producing that can of mushroom soup or that pack of delicious macaroni and cheese? These are all the results of food formulation.

This is a multi-step process that takes a food idea from conception to the grocery aisle. While simple in theory, it involves a lot of innovation, technique, and trial and error.

The process is the same whether you call it food formulation, product formulation, or food product design.

Let’s take a quick look at what goes into this fascinating process

What is the Food Formulation Process?

It’s important to follow all the necessary steps when creating new food product designs, to ensure it’s good and it can be produced on a large scale.

  1. It Starts with an Idea

It’s a grim fact that new food products launched into the market have an 80 percent failure rate. This statistic is why most food brands make it a point to iron out their idea before going further. The marketing team helms this process and bases it on data from market research and competitor analysis.

  1. Test Recipe

The next step is to do an initial test recipe and see if it creates a good product. This is so that they can see what the final product will look and taste like. Often, this is done in small batches, so it’s cheap and quick to make any revisions.

  1. Sensory Tests

The prototype is then sent for sensory evaluation. A team of talented tasters does this. The professionals will judge every aspect of the food product from taste and texture to the overall presentation. They will then notify the test kitchen team of any changes. If the product is up to par, then it will undergo a pilot batch

  1. Pilot Batch

The pilot batch is usually a step up in size from the test batch and is used to see how well the recipe will perform on a slightly larger scale. Mistakes are spotted and corrected at this point.

Product specifications are also monitored to ensure consistency. This is needed to minimize any errors before committing to a commercial batch. Further sensory tests may be done until everyone is happy with the final product.

  1. Consumer Test

One final step before a full product launch is to do consumer testing. Here, random people from the product’s target market judge the product. They might be asked to describe it freely, or against a set number of criteria. Once the feedback is in, the company will decide to either push through with the product or make necessary changes.

Consumer testing is a necessary step in the food formulation process because it’s an actual test of what the market thinks of the product. It eliminates any bias that might arise from internal testing and gives a good gauge of success.

  1. Launch!

With a successful prototype, the company will now go into production scale. Marketing for the product will also increase, and distribution channels will be tapped. All of this is in preparation for the last stage of product formulation – launching it.

The company may also opt to protect their food recipe at this point (Interested in protecting your food recipe? Read an interesting article here.)

But the process doesn’t stop there. Once launched, the performance of the product will be continually monitored. Things will be revised as needed. The truth is, food formulation is less of a linear process and more of a life cycle.