Meeting Formulation Challenges
By Shonda Dudlicek
Phosphates inject nature into processing.
The use of phosphates in meat processing is not new. What is new are some of the challenges directed at the meat industry that using phosphates is somehow unnatural.
“Phosphates are becoming more scrutinized by consumers as more companies are moving toward clean-label alternatives,” says Rick Hull, vice president, World Technology Ingredients (WTI), Jefferson, GA. “In several large companies there are active projects underway to eliminate the use of ‘chemical-sounding’ ingredients in favor of those consumers can relate to.”
Hull fears consumer perception of phosphate usage will become “worse and worse over time as they are perceived as chemicals added to our food,” he says. “We believe the trend is growing as the impact of the organic movement and the shift to more ‘natural-sounding’ ingredients will not go away in the short term. We can expect more demands by consumers to clean up labels as they are afraid of ‘chemicals’ in their food.”
Jim Anderson, technical manager, BK Giulini Corp. (BKGC), Simi Valley, Calif., agrees to a point.
“The market intelligence tells us that phosphate resistance from a consumer point of view is minimal,” he says. “However, there are some individuals — who really are phosphate ignorant — trying to create an objection to phosphate use. So far, this impact has been minimal and deservedly so.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, phosphates yield two beneficial effects: moisture retention and flavor protection. An example is the use of phosphates in the curing of ham, where approved additives are sodium or potassium salts of tripolyphosphate, hexametaphosphate, acid pyrophosphate or orthophosphates, declared as phosphates on labels.
The benefits
According to Anderson, phosphates are singularly the most effective functional ingredient available. Their scope is quite broad, he says. Phosphates can address protein stabilization, pH adjustment, moisture retention along with ancillary components, color control, antioxidants, and a host of other attributes.
“The management of protein by phosphates as it transitions from muscle to meat is unique,” he adds. “Not only are phosphates exceptionally functional, but they also perform while providing a good source of phosphorus — the essential element responsible for more biological functions in the body than any other. This, coupled with the fact that phosphates occur in the body — for example, ATP — makes them a natural choice.”
Hull says one of the benefits of using phosphates is that they facilitate the retention of marinade and brines in muscle foods. “This, in turn, affects process yield, meat tenderness and juiciness, overall eating quality,” he says.
Larry Guerin, industry manager and technical service manager for Budenheim/Gallard-Schlesinger Industries, Plainview, NY, says phosphates are used to improve the texture or “eatability” of meat.
“They take the muscle back to its pre-rigor state: a nice, firm texture. Meat is frozen and thawed. You’re dealing with a live animal that you kill. … Phosphates help muscle and protein. They’re a processing aid used in reconditioning,” Guerin says. Phosphates can be specialized and customized based on the product and its desired texture and color.
“With phosphates, you can specialize the product to what you want. I compare it to a black and white pillow as opposed to one that uses color,” Guerin says. “By using phosphates you can customize, and it’s a difference you can see in the products.”
Gallard-Schlesinger is a subsidiary of Germany-based Chemische Fabrik Budenheim, which supplies specialty phosphates designed for multi-purpose applications in the meat, seafood, and poultry industries. Its phosphates lines, Carnal and Abastol, have a fixed pH and superior dissolvability. Through a patented extraction process, its phosphates line has fewer impurities, which means more functionality at lower usage levels.
“Phosphates are not a binder. If the meat doesn’t have enough moisture, it gets dry and stringy,” Guerin says. “Phosphates give it moisture and a better bite. In some cases you want a lower pH for firmness.”
Guerin says he’s ready to fight for the value, usefulness and integrity of phosphates. “Phosphates are a selling point because consumers buy with their eyes and by taste. The consumer doesn’t realize it, but phosphates are organic,” he stresses. “Phosphates are an integral part of processing because you try to replace what’s been lost. Phosphates have been around for eons. If you pull them out, the way that cooking methods are today, food will deteriorate and the quality would go down.”
New blends
Phosphate manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated by tailoring specific blends to better accommodate their customers needs, Hull explains.
“For example, different blends have been developed to leverage the differences in the muscle proteins of different species such as beef, pork, turkey, etc.,” he says. “Years ago the same phosphate would have been used for the different species.”
WTI creates specialty phosphates that leverage and synergize with the natural muscle biochemistry during processing, requiring expertise in ingredient, substrate and process interactions, Hull says.
The food industry seemingly demands more and more protein performance, and BKGC constantly evaluates applications where its emerging technologies can be utilized, Anderson says.
The food industry seemingly demands more and more protein performance, and BKGC constantly evaluates applications where its emerging technologies can be utilized, Anderson says.
“One example of this is a specialty phosphate designed to mitigate yield issues which can happen with many antimicrobial systems currently in use,” he adds. “Another very successful application has been the use of faster-acting phosphates to maximize yield in places where processing times are rapid — a definite challenge for STPP (sodium tripolyphosphate).
“Finally, specialty phosphates can be invaluable when formulations are trying to reduce sodium. As a side note, sodium is an issue for consumers and the use of phosphates can reduce sodium significantly.”
BKGC is the North American marketing arm of Germany-based BK Giulini GmbH, part of ICL Performance Products. BKGC’s leadership in food phosphate specialties is due in part because to the company’s focus on the food industry, Anderson says.
“This leadership continues largely because of our raw-material position, expertise in phosphate formulation and manufacturing and advanced agglomeration capabilities which enable us to supply consistently high-quality ingredients unsurpassed in the industry.”
Agglomerated phosphates are highly salt-tolerant. Traditionally, phosphates were dissolved in water first when making an injection or marinade solution. However, today, many meat processors buy complete pre-blends, especially marinades, which contain phosphates as well as salt, requiring simultaneous dissolution of both components.
Using potassium phosphates in deli meats can help consumers wishing to follow the Food & Drug Administration’s new Food Pyramid nutritional guide, which emphasizes less sodium consumption, says Gene Brotsky, meat specialist, technical service at Innophos, Cranbury, NJ.
“Highly alkaline phosphates used to bind juices in roast beef can impart an ‘overly processed’ or ‘hammy’ texture. Rather, a pH-balanced phosphate blend can achieve succulent roast beef with natural texture,” Brotsky says. “Highly alkaline phosphates can also darken ‘white meats,’ such as chicken and turkey. Alkaline phosphates commonly used can cause grayish color and a ‘soapy’ flavor in white meats.”
Innophos has achieved USDA approval for a novel remedy, and tricalcium phosphate is now approved at up to 1.5 percent to preserve original color in comminuted poultry, according to Brotsky.
“Moreover, the added calcium can now be included in a calcium claim made for a prepared meal of which the poultry product is a component,” he says.
Innophos also has received USDA approval for a new phosphate for use in meats, Brotsky says.
“Trisodium pyrophosphate is a neutral pH pyro with high meat functionality and excellent solubility that overcomes the difficult solubility inherent with tetrasodium pyrophosphate that has severely restricted its use.”
Encouraging future
Things are looking up for phosphates, even if consumer perception may seem weak.
“We believe the future of phosphates is encouraging,” Brotsky says. “We expect an increase in use, especially in the beef industry, for marketing case-ready products, which are fresh products that are more tender and juicy.
“The beef industry is now where the pork industry was 10 years ago with marinated products. There’s a whole range of potential to be similar to what they’ve done in pork and poultry to beef products,” Brotsky says. “We see the future with the market opening up as well as traditional markets. The use of phosphates to increase the yield and binding and achieve longer quality shelf life all make it a big plus.”
Anderson sees the trend for commodity phosphates to be replaced with specialty phosphates.
“For instance, rather than trying to make STPP fit all applications, utilizing phosphates which are ‘result dependent’ — cook yield, marinade retention, texture control, etc. — can provide very desirable results,” Anderson notes. “We fully expect this trend to increase simply because marketing projections reveal that food products [that] rely on ‘phosphated’ attributes are growing. This coupled with the non-allergenic nature of phosphate is very timely in light of the recent allergen labeling regulations.”
Phosphates improve meat and act as a selling point when stacked up against similar products, Anderson says.
“Overwhelmingly, the consumer will choose meat which has been properly processed using the correct phosphate,” he says. “Additionally, these preferred products actually cost less to produce. The result is a very compelling selling point — a better product [that] costs less, which is in the best interest to the consumer, [is] truly a win-win situation.” NP
Shonda Dudlicek is a freelance writer in the Chicago area.
Suppliers participating in this article include:
• BK Giulini Corp., phone (805) 581-1979, fax: (805) 581-2139
• Budenheim/Gallard-Schlesinger Industries, phone (516) 683-6900, fax: (516) 683-6990
• Innophos, phone (609) 495-2495, fax: (609) 860-0138
• World Technology Ingredients Inc., phone (800) 827-1727
Phosphates: The all-purpose chemical
Inorganic phosphates are present in all living organisms, both animal and vegetable, and are required continuously to support life since most are essential nutrients.
Phosphorus is one of the most common substances in the environment, naturally occurring in food, water and living beings as well as in human and animal waste. In the body, phosphorus is present in genes, teeth and bones — even muscles work because of phosphorus.
There are a few characteristics that define phosphate properties, mainly chain length and pH in a one-percent solution. These affect the functionality of phosphates that determines how the phosphates are used in every facet of life. They contribute buffering strength, sequestering power, dispersion and absorptive capabilities and solubility.
Phosphates usually are used as compounds of phosphate ions in combination with several common elements, such as sodium, calcium, potassium, and aluminum. They also offer benefits as nutrient sources.
A single phosphorus compound can have a broad range of applications. For example, sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), a critical ingredient used to preserve the moisture and flavor in ham and shrimp, also affects the performance capabilities of automatic dishwasher detergents. Tripolyphosphates, a group of phosphates named based on the number of phosphorus atoms, act as a dispersant.
In chicken tenders, STPP promotes protein and water binding. In cooked ham, STPP retains moisture and preserves flavor. That same STPP can soften water, suspend soil, and serve as an anti-spotting agent in automatic dishwasher and car-wash detergents, as well as inhibit moisture loss on thawing and help retain the natural flavor of frozen fish.
SOURCE: American Chemistry Council Web site,