Common Humectants utilized in food products in order to depress Water Activity

Water activity impacts food chemistry and will be managed by removing (dehydrating or drying) or even through chemically binding the water, consequently reducing it's activity.

Humectants as Food Additives
Humectants are additives that join normal water and control water activity. Although the focus here is concerning humectants in foods, humectants also have applications in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic as well as veterinary industries. The reduction of water activity in food products through the inclusion of humectants elevates harmony, preserves texture and also lowers microbial activity.

Humectant use in food items is extensive and has a lengthy history. Salt and sugar are the oldest, most favored humectants. Other commonly used humectants include sorbitol, glycerol and propylene glycol. Humectants are widely available from every day suppliers.

As food additives, humectants need to fulfill numerous criteria for acceptance: safety, lack of adverse odours and flavours, nutritional value, economy and convenience. A key benefit is the reduction of microbial activity in foodstuff, attained through reduction of aw to less than 0.90. Microbial activity may also be reduced by drying foodstuff, thereby reducing the moisture content and aw, however the addition of humectants reduces aw, whilst maintaining moisture.

Food Treatment Blending, moist infusion, and also dry infusion methods are generally used to treat food items with humectants. Blending consists of mixing the product with a humectant solution and requires that the food product be mixed or homogenized. With moist infusion, the food product is soaked in the humectant solution. Dry infusion involves first drying out or dehydrating the goods and then immersing it in the humectant solution.

Intermediate Moisture Foods
 Intermediate moisture foods (IMFs) are sufficiently moist to try to eat “as is” and have aw low enough to prevent bacterial growth. Typical water contents vary from 10-40%, with water activities which range from 0.6-0.9. Jams, cheeses and dried fruits are typical IMFs. IMFs produced with humectants for human consumption have emerged as a target of rapidly growing interest, however advancement has been slow due to complications related to uniformity, texture and also flavour changes triggered by humectants. Public perception associated with possible toxicological attributes of food additives has also restricted widespread progress of IMFs for human consumption. Recent applications have concentrated on developing IMFs for use in space programs and the military. The addition of humectants to raw meat products can greatly reduce the water activity into ranges which in turn allow for storage without refrigeration.

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