What is Ammonium Sulfate?
Ammonium sulfate, or [(NH4)2 SO4], is an inorganic salt used in the food industry. The crystalline solid has no aroma, has a slightly salty taste, and is primarily useful due to high solubility characteristics.
Ammonium sulfate originates from the heated reaction of ammonia and sulfuric acid, or in other words the neutralization of ammonium hydroxide and sulfuric acid. Therefore, ammonium sulfate is the by-product of many manufacturing practices as well as produced for intended use. The sulfate is a highly soluble crystal and ranges in color from white to beige, though can come in a variety of particle sizes as needed. The crystal size is controlled by altering reaction conditions, then dried, and screened to the desired final particle size. An alternative production process involves gypsum. Thoroughly separated gypsum is set in an ammonium carbonate solution, which precipitates as a solid, yielding ammonium sulfate as the remainder.
Mostly commonly used as a dough conditioner, surfactant, or dough strengthener, ammonium sulfate supplies extra Nitrogen for the yeast to consume promoting product consistency, volume, crumb, and shelf life. As an additive, ammonium sulfate also aids in controlling the pH of flours and baked products. Can form ammonium metal sulfates or double salts when reacted with metal sulfates and slowly evaporated to yield the remaining salt particulates.
Ammonia, nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, and water comprise ammonium sulfate. In other words, 21% nitrogen, 24% sulfur, 6% hydrogen, and 48% oxygen.
In baking applications, ammonium sulfate is used as a dough conditioner and dough strengthener in bread products. Ammonium sulfate supplies nitrogen to the yeast for nourishment aiding in yeast function while promoting browning. The Food and Drug Administration requires a maximum level of 0.15 percent to comply with current Good Manufacturing Practices.
In small amounts, ammonium sulfate poses no significant health concerns. Though if an excessive amount is digested, gastrointestinal irritation can occur. If the undiluted solid is directly inhaled, respiratory inflammation or irritation can occur. Furthermore, direct contact can irritate the skin and eyes causing redness or itching. Many health qualms have appeared in the media due to the other uses of ammonium sulfate in fertilizer and other agricultural requirements, though the negative connotations are void because ammonium sulfate is not used in high enough quantities in the food industry to cause harm.
FDA Legal Requirement