Q:

What is polysorbate 60?

A:

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, polysorbate 60 is a food additive most commonly used as an emulsifier to keep oil and water from separating in dessert toppings and imitation coffee creamers. Polysorbate 60 is often found in baked goods and frozen desserts for moisture retention.

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Polysorbate 60 is formed by reacting a mixture of stearic acid, sorbitol and ethylene oxide. It comes in the form of a yellow paste for easy mixing with oil and fats. Its addition to imitation coffee creamers allows the water-based coffee and the oil-based creamer to mix thoroughly. Natural creamers usually separate from coffee because oil and water do not mix.

According to the FDA, polysorbate 60 is safe for consumption. When it is used as an emulsifier in dessert toppings, polysorbate 60 is commonly mixed with one or all of the following additives: sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 65 or polysorbate 80. However, the amount of polysorbate 60 cannot exceed 0.4 percent of the final weight of the topping. When used in baked goods, polysorbate 60 is commonly added along with sorbitan monostearate or polysorbate 65. In this case, when used alone or in combination with the other two additives, the amount of the additive cannot exceed 0.46 percent of the cake mix’s final dry weight. Polysorbate 60 is also known as PEG-60, TWEEN-60 and polyoxyethylene-(20)-sorbitan monostearate.

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