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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.

Importance of Food Product Testing

Importance of Food Product Testing

What would happen if we didn’t have regulated food testing in place?

Though it may be the last process of the food manufacturing chain, food product testing is the most important step, because it determines the safety of the food for use.

Food product testing is vitally necessary, to ensure that the food is free of physical, chemical and biological hazards. Examples of potential hazardous food contaminants include metals, e-coli bacteria, salmonella, cleaning agents, additives, preservatives, pesticides, and more.

What is food testing?

Food product testing is the scientific analysis of food and its contents. It is done to provide information about various characteristics of food, including the structure, composition, and physicochemical properties. Food product testing is also performed for other reasons:

  • To test the quality of a product. This is done to verify claims made by the manufacturer of the product on certain issues; for instance, the ingredients used.
  • For quality control. This is done before, during, and after the manufacturing process to analyze the quality of the food ingredients, and the finished product.
  • Food inspection and grading are performed regularly to ensure food manufacturers meet the set laws and standards.
  • Foods must have a standardized nutritional label; therefore food needs to be analyzed to verify the claims made.
  • Research and development is necessary for manufacturers to improve and provide food high quality, healthy, and affordable food; this requires studying and analyzing the products already in the market.
  • To protect a manufacturer from rumours and smears.You have probably seen many products in the market being labeled unhealthy by competitors or other rumour mongers; with food testing, such rumours can be sorted out.

food testing laboratory

How do you test food?

Food product testing can be done using several methods, all of which are highly advanced, to provide accurate information about the nutritional value and safety of the food. The most common methods of food product testing are:

  • Analytical Chemistry Testing: Involves chemically separating and analyzing for the different components of the food product, including PH, additives, preservatives, colours, contaminants, and so on.
  • Sensory Testing: This is the most basic method of testing, which involves using the human senses: sight, taste, touch, sound, and smell.
  • Nutrition Analysis: Involves finding out the nutrition composition of food; the information gathered is used on the product’s label.
  • Microbiology Testing: Involves analyzing for microorganisms that contaminate food. It is usually done on the raw materials, ingredients, and the final product.

How is food nutrient content determined?

Nutrition analysis is the process through which food nutrient content is determined, and is part of food product testing. This process analyzes the molecular structure of the food, identifying the components present and at what level of concentration.

This is what is used to generate the nutritional facts label that is mandatory on some products.

The nutritional facts label indicates things such as calories, carbohydrates, vitamins (like Vitamin A, E and C), proteins, sugar, and fibre, among others. This information is supposed to help consumers choose healthy foods, and avoid foods with ingredients they do not want to consume.

Food product testing to determine nutrient content is done using laboratory analysis, software, turnkey nutrition analysis, and online nutrition analysis. Lab analysis is the most preferred method.