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Food Safety

What are food enzymes and why are they used for?

Enzymes are naturally-occurring proteins that enhance biochemical reactions. They can be obtained by extraction from plants or animals or by fermentation from micro-organisms. They are normally added to perform a technological function in the manufacture, processing, preparation and treatment of a wide range of foods.

Food enzymes (FE) are mainly used in baking industry, for manufacturing fruit juices, in wine making and brewing as well as in cheese manufacturing. An important field of applications in terms of volumes is starch conversion to yield ingredients for foodstuff.

What are the benefits for the food industry?

In food production, food enzymes have a number of advantages:

  • They can be used as alternatives to traditional chemical-based technology, and can replace synthetic chemicals in many processes. Such uses can improve the environmental performance of production processes, through lower energy consumption and biodegradability.

  • They are more specific in their action than synthetic chemicals. Therefore, processes which utilise enzymes have fewer side reactions and waste by-products, resulting in higher quality purified products.

Are food enzymes safe?

In the past, the safety of some food enzymes was assessed by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF). Since 2003, EFSA has replaced the SCF and is currently undertaking the evaluation of all food enzymes. Only FE for which the proposed uses are considered safe will be on the EU list.