What is Calcium Propionate?
Calcium propionate is the calcium salt of propionic acid. It is a preservative commonly used in baked goods around the world, where it extends their shelf life by inhibiting the growth of spoilage microorganisms, namely mold and ropy bacteria.
Characteristics of calcium propionate include:
- Chemical formula: C6H10O4 Ca
- Molecular Weight: 186.22
- Works best at pH below 5.5
- Recommended usage level in bakery: 0.1-0.3% flour weight, but higher levels not uncommon
- Nutrition: 21 grams of calcium are present in 100 grams of calcium propionate5
Propionic acid occurs naturally in swiss cheese at 1%1. Together with its calcium salt derivative, it has been established as a bakery antimicrobial for a long time. As early as 1906, Watkins recognized that it was effective against ropy bacteria in bread.2 Since the 1930s, propionates have been widely used to preserve bread in the United States.
Is calcium propionate safe?
Calcium propionate is commonly used as a preservative in yeast-raised baked products such as pre-packed and sliced bread, and in some chemically-leavened goods like tortillas. It is added during the dough phase and its optimal use level is mainly dependent on the formula and the desired shelf life of the finished product.
Calcium propionate is formed by neutralizing chemically-synthesized propionic acid with calcium hydroxide. Although it has been a preservative of choice in bakery for decades, in recent years it has been increasingly challenged as non-clean label by many consumers and leading retailers,6,7 resulting in a push to reduce or altogether eliminate it from formulations.
Here are some factors that bakers and formulators must consider when using this ingredient:
Calcium propionate is most active in the pH range below 5.5. Therefore, it is common to use acids to adjust the pH to optimize the activity. Moreover, salts of benzoic or sorbic acid are recommended for use in products with higher pH levels, such as in many chemically leavened sweet baked goods. In tortillas, calcium propionate and potassium sorbate are commonly used together, to achieve a broad spectrum of mold inhibition while maintaining product quality.
Calcium propionate is the ideal preservative for bread and rolls because it has little effect on yeast and does not interfere with its fermentation. In some applications such as cakes, however, it may not be a good preservative option, as the high use level and its available calcium interfere with the chemical leavening.4 In contrast, sodium propionate will delay fermentation of yeast and is not recommended for use in breads or rolls, but it is preferred for the preservation of cakes.4
Calcium propionate is effective at inhibiting growth of mold and ropy bacteria when its dose relative to the number of microbial cells present is adequate to block cell metabolism. If the baked good is produced in an environment without effective current good manufacturing practices (cGMP), the dose may not be effective in inhibiting microbial growth.
In the United States, calcium propionate is affirmed as a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) food substance under the following conditions:
- It is used as an antimicrobial agent
- It is used in accordance with current good manufacturing practices and use does not exceed what is needed for desired effect
- It is used in baked goods, cheeses, confections, frostings, gelatins, puddings, fillings, jams or jellies.
- Meets the specifications of the Food Chemical Codex (FCC) 3rd edition. (21 C.F.R. § 184.1221 2018)
The European Food Safety Authority re-evaluated calcium propionate (E-282) as a food additive in 2014 and found no safety concerns for this additive.1 Maximum permitted level (MPL) is specified in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 13333/2008 on food additives, and the panel does not have any concerns at this level or in these applications:
|Category||Foods||Restrictions||MPL or mg/Kg|
|07.1||Bread and rolls||Only pre-packaged sliced bread and rye bread||3000|
|07.1||Bread and rolls||Only energy reduced bread, partially baked pre-packed bread, and pre-packaged roll and pita, prepackaged polsebrod, bolle and dansk flutes||2000|
|07.1||Bread and rolls||Only pre-packaged bread||1000|
- “Food Additives”, Food Chemistry 2nd Edition, ed. Owen Fennema. Marcel Dekker, New York. 1985.
- Luck, E, Jager, M. “Propionic Acid”, Antimicrobial Food Additives. Springer, London. 1997.
- EFSA. “Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of propionic acid (E 280), sodium propionate (E 281), calcium propionate (E 282) and potassium propionate (E 283) as food additives. EFSA Journal.12:7:3779.. 2014.
- Chemical Book, Calcium propionate. 2017. www.chemicalbook.com/ChemicalProductProperty_EN_CB6194031.htm. Accessed 1 February 2019.
- Macco. Nutritional Data Calcium Propionate. 2012. www.macco.cz/ca/resources/pdf-data/37E_CalPro-Nutridata.pdf. Accessed 1 February 2019.
- Whole Foods Market. “Unacceptable Ingredients for Food (as of March 15, 2019).” https://assets.wholefoodsmarket.com/www/products/quality-standards/Unacceptable_Ingredients_for_Food_031519.pdf Accessed 15 Sept 2020.
- Panera Bread. “The No No List, April 16, 2018” https://www.panerabread.com/panerabread/documents/panera-no-no-list-05-2015.pdf Accessed 15 Sept 2020.
How can we check which brand of CP is best and which not? any chemical test?
Hi Izhar, thanks for your question. Do you mind posting in our forum, so our team and others can participate and contribute? https://bakerpedia.com/forums/ Thank you!
I’m struggling to get measurements calcium propionate correct.
If I have 1kg of flour, how much of calcium propionate do I need to add to dry flour?
Hi there, thanks for your question! Do you mind posting in our forum, so our team and others can participate and contribute? https://bakerpedia.com/forums/
Permissible limit is 0.2%, so for 1 kg flour you can add upto 2 grams.
You can try to add wheat gluten powder, 10 grams per 1kg all-purpose flour. Your problem will be solved.
Hello everyone I’m here to get help from you in bread conservative
Hi there, a great place to start is BAKER Academy, where you can attend seminars and download white papers for free, plus ask questions in the forum so our team and community can share advice! https://bakerpedia.com/academy/
Very interesting article! I have a question concerning the Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 13333/2008. With the term “Restriction”, it means that for all the other applications there are no MPL to respect?
My goal is to use the calcium propionate in a bread following this process:
production –> freezing/packaging –> delivery to retailer –> thawing –> sale
Am I allow to do so according to the current regulations in your opinion?
Thanks in advance! Your support is highly appreciated!
Hi Riccardo, great question. Do you mind posting it in our forum, so our team and community can share advice? https://bakerpedia.com/forums/ Thanks!
How to use calcium propionate. Should we add it on dry ingridients. Or we can dissolve in in water before adding in dry ingridients?
Hi Jomer, great question. If you post it in our forum, our team and community can share advice there: https://bakerpedia.com/forums/ Thanks!
Hello everyone hye this side Rahul from india .
Would you help me to find out any best chemical for extend bread shelf life and bakery goods
Hello Rahul! That’s great question! If you post it on our Baking Industry Professionals group, our team and community may be able to help with an answer. Also, check out our free classes on shelf life here.
please how many grams of is required for 1000g of bread flour.. thanks
Hi there, if you post your question in the BAKERpedia Baking Industry Professionals group, our team and community can share some suggestions.