PolySorbates – Available Grades – Used in Bakery Products and Food Processing

What are Polysorbates?

Polysorbates are a class of emulsifiers used in some pharmaceuticals and food preparation. They are often used in cosmetics to solubilize essential oils into water-based products. Polysorbates are oily liquids derived from ethoxylated sorbitan (a derivative of sorbitol) esterified with fatty acids.

They are amber colored viscous liquid which is made from polyethoxylated sorbitan (chemical compounds derived from the dehydration of sugar alcohol) and oleic acid, a fatty acid found in animal and vegetable fats.

Polysorbate 65 and 80 are used as an emulsifier or deformed in foods, vitamins, medicines, and vaccines. They are in fermentation process of some wines, and also to bind some ice-creams and other ‘puddings’, to keep their creamy texture without separating. They are also used to bulk foods up and keep sauces smooth.

Also Read: Type of Emulsifiers and Their Role in Bakery Products

Polysorbates are hydrophilic emulsifying agents, of which polysorbate 20 is more hydrophilic than polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80, and polysorbate 65 is more lipophilic than the others. Polysorbates have HLB (Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Balance) value in the range of 14-16, which assures the compatible mixing of two phases (water and oil).

Hydrophilic means portion of a substance that is water loveable or have high solubility in water and lipophilic means that portion that is soluble in water.

Synonyms: Tween

Commercial Production of Polysorbates

Polysorbate, a substance prepared by the reaction of sorbitan fatty acid ester (a nonionic surfactant) with ethylene oxide.

Grades available in Polysorbates

Polysorbates are available in following grades in which number represents the fatty acid associated with the polyoxyethylene sorbitan component of the molecule:

  • Polysorbates 20
  • Polysorbates 40
  • Polysorbates 60
  • Polysorbates 65
  • Polysorbates 80

Uses of Polysorbates in Food industries:

Also Read: List of Commonly Used Dough Conditioners in Bakery Products

  • Polysorbates can act as an emulsifier, dispersant in many foods, including bread, cake mix.
  • They are used in salad dressing, shortening oil and manufacturing chocolate.
  • They are found in shortening, margarine, peanut butter, dry mixes.
  • They are used in dairy products.
  • They act as a solubilizer.
  • They are used as foaming agent.
  • They are added in ice-creams to make it smooth.
  • Adding polysorbates can increase the strength and shelf life of product.


  • Polysorbates are non-carcinogenic.
  • They prevent milk proteins from completely coating the fat droplets.
  • Available in many grades.
  • They provide a firm texture to the product.
  • Polysorbate 60 can be an effective dough conditioning agent


  • Polysorbates can cause diarrhoea if taken in excess.
  • If applied over skin, may cause inflammation.

FDA Approval On the Addition of Polysorbates in Food Products

In the U.S., polysorbates were approved as food additives at the beginning of the 1960s, and their use in foods. In the EU, polysorbates 20, 40, 60, 65 and 80 were approved by the Directives for Food Additive (1995), and standards for their use were established. Polysorbates 60, 80, and 85 are allowed as a direct food additive in the United States, under clearly restricted levels and applications.

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