Enzymes and Their Applications in Food

In my lectures I usually mention how enzymes are used extensively in the food industry, but I don't have enough time to go into detail. Today I'm listing some of the enzymes used to make the products we find in our stores.

Alpha-amylase: Converts starch to dextrins in producing corn syrup. Solubilizes (makes more capable of being dissolved) carbohydrates found in barley and other cereals used in brewing.

Glucoamylase: Conversion of dextrins to glucose in the production of corn syrup. Conversion of residual dextrins to fermentable sugar in brewing for the production of "light" beer.

Beta-glucanase: Breakdown of glucans in malt and and other materials to aid in filtration after mashing in brewing.

Lipase: Enhancing flavor development and shortening the time for cheese ripening. Production of specialty fats with improved qualities. Production of enzyme-modified cheese/butter from cheese curd or butterfat.

Papain: Used as meat tenderizer. Used in brewing to prevent chill-haze formation by digesting proteins that otherwise react with tannins to form insoluble colloids.

Chymosin: Curdling of milk by breaking down kappa-caseins in cheese making.

Microbial proteases: Processing of raw plant and animal protein. Production of fish meals, meat extracts, texturized proteins, and meat extenders.

Pectinase: Treatment of fruit pulp to facilitate juice extraction and for clarification and filtration of fruit juice.

Lactase: Additive for dairy products for individuals lacking lactase. Breakdown of lactose in whey products for manufacturing polyactide.

Acetolactate decarboxylase: Reduction of maturation time in wine making by converting acetolactate to acetoin.

Glucose oxidase: Conversion of glucose to gluconic acid to prevent Maillard reaction (reaction that gives browned food a particular flavor) in products caused by high heat used in dehydration.

Cellulase: Conversion of cellulose waste to fermentable feedstock for ethanol or single-cell protein production. Degradation of cell walls of grains, allowing better extraction of cell contents and release of nutrients.

(Source: "Food Enzymes: Structure and Mechanism". DWS Wong. 1995, pp. 17-36.)

- Devin Houston