E341 – Calcium phosphates

E341 InfoCons Consumers Protection

What is E 341?

E 341 is a food additive with functions as an acidity regulator, emulsifier, sequestering agent, humectant and stabiliser (water retaining and thickening).

It takes the following forms:

  • E 341(i) – Monocalcium phosphate,
  • E 341(ii) – Dicalcium phosphate and
  • E 341(iii) – Tricalcium phosphate.

How are E 341(I), (II) and (II) additives obtained?

  • Monocalcium orthophosphate (E 341 I) is obtained by treating phosphorite or apatite with sulphuric acid, or from calcium monoacid phosphate with CO2 and water vapour at elevated temperature.
  • Dicalcium orthophosphate (E 341 II) is obtained in anhydrous form and has the crude formula CaHPO4 and M=136.06 g/mol, as well as in hydrated form with the crude formula CaHPO4 .2H2 O and M=172.09 g/mol.
  • Tricalcium orthophosphate (E 341 III) is found widespread in soil, bones, as well as in phosphorites, apatites, guano, etc. It has the gross formula Ca3 (PO4 )2 and M=310.17 g/mol.[i]

Which foods can E 341 (I, II and III) additives be added to?

According to the regulations in force, the additives E 341 I, II, III, shall be used alone or mixed with E 339, E 340, E 343, E 450, E 451 and E 452 in the following products:

– in non-alcoholic flavoured drinks;

– in energy drinks and table water;

– in sterilised and UHT milk;

– in partly dehydrated milk with a content of less than 28% s.u.;

– in partly dehydrated milk containing more than 28% s.u.;

– in powdered milk and skimmed milk;

– in pasteurized, sterilized UHT cream;

– in butter made from sour cream;

– in cream and similar vegetable fat products;

– in fresh cheese (exclusively Mozarella);

– in processed cheese and similar processed cheese products.

The additive is also added to bakery products, for example:

– in fine products;

– in flour with flour conditioners;

– in doughs;

– in noodles;

– in water-based aqueous emulsions for coating pastry moulds;

– in breakfast cereals.

 In sugar and confectionery products, additives are added in mixtures of dessert powders, in desserts, in icings such as pancake syrups, flavoured syrups for ice cream, in confectionery, in icing sugar, in fruit preparations and candied fruits, in chewing gum, in processed potato products (including processed, chilled, frozen, and dehydrated products), in fat spreads.

It is also added to unprocessed, chilled or frozen fish fillets, unprocessed, chilled, frozen molluscs and crustaceans, canned crustacean products, fish and crustacean pasta, meat products, membranes for meat and vegetable products.

It is also added to sauces, soups and broths, cider and pear brandy, alcoholic beverages (excluding wine and beer), chocolate and malt-based dairy drinks, vegetable protein drinks, dietary supplements, snacks, coffee-based drinks for vending machines, liquid egg.[ii]

What else can E 341 (I,II,III) additives be used in?

Monocalcium orthophosphate (E 341 I), may be used in animal and poultry feed. Calcium: strengthens bone tissue and skeleton. Phosphorus: one of the most important minerals in animal feed. Plays an important role in cell growth and differentiation (DNA), energy and protein metabolism, appetite control, feed efficiency, fertility, etc.

It can also be used as a fertiliser. It provides plants with nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium. It has the highest P content of dry fertilizers without nitrogen (N), which is suitable for plants that do not need extra nitrogen.[iii]

E 341(II) dicalcium phosphate can be used as a water-soluble phosphorus and potassium fertilizer in agricultural applications for crop cultivation. It can also be used in the culture of micro-organisms (e.g. antibiotic and yeast fermentation processes), as phosphorus is an essential component for the growth of micro-organisms.

Tricalcium orthophosphate (E 341 III) can be used as a dietary calcium and phosphorus supplement in pet food, for example in cat and dog food. It can also be used in cosmetic products. According to the European Commission’s ‘Database on information on cosmetic substances and ingredients’, E 341 functions as an abrasive, anti-caking, masking, opacifying and oral care agent in cosmetics and personal care products.  It is also found in toothpaste. [iv]

E341 Food InfoCons Consumers Protection

Are there any side effects from consuming E341 food additives?

Calcium phosphates are considered safe for human consumption but are not recommended for frequent consumption.

According to animal studies, the only significant adverse effect of phosphates was nephrocalcinosis and tubulointerstitial nephropathy. The onset and progression of these effects appear to be fairly rapid, and the NOAELs and LOAELs for derivatives from subchronic and chronic studies are in the same range. Although animal studies report that high phosphorus intake causes bone resorption or decreased bone formation, the panel felt that the observed effects on bone metabolism and bone mineralization in animals are not sufficiently well characterized to derive an association with high dietary phosphate intake.

What are the characteristics of E 341 additives?

Monocalcium orthophosphate (E 341 I)

The additive E 341 (I) has the synonyms: monobasic calcium phosphate, monocalcium orthophosphate. Its chemical name is calcium dihydrogen phosphate, monocalcium dihydrogen orthophosphate or monocalcium dihydrogen monophosphate.

It occurs in anhydrous form with the crude formula Ca(H2 PO4 )2 with M=234,05 g/mol and monohydrate Ca(H2 PO4 )2.H2 O with M=252,09 g/mol.

The additive is in the form of triclinic, colourless, deliquescent crystals, soluble in water and acids.

It has density = 2.22. Heated to 109o C it loses water of crystallisation and at 203o C it decomposes to metaphosphate. E 343 (I) must have a minimum content of 95% active substance to anhydrous substance. Loss on drying shall be not more than 14% after drying at 105 C for four hours (anhydrous) and not more than 17,5% after heating at 800o C for 30 minutes (anhydrous). The P2 O5 content shall be between 55,5% and 61,1% and the CaO content between 23%-27% for anhydrous samples.

Dicalcium orthophosphate (E 341 II)

Its synonyms are dibasic calcium phosphate, dicalcium orthophosphate, and its chemical name is calcium monohydrogen phosphate, calcium hydrogen orthophosphate, secondary calcium phosphate or dicalcium phosphate.

Dicalcium orthophosphate comes in the form of crystals, granules, granular powder or white powder.

It is insoluble in water and ethanol but soluble in acids. On calcination it decomposes to pyrophosphate. Dicalcium phosphate, after drying at 200o C for three hours must contain a minimum of 98% and a maximum of 102% CaHPO4 . Loss on ignition at 800°C for 30 minutes must not exceed a maximum of 8.5% (for anhydrous) and 26.5% (for dihydrate). The P2 O5 content of the additive is between 50,0% and 52,5% (anhydrous).

Tricalcium orthophosphate (E 341 III)

Its synonyms are tribasic calcium phosphate, calcium orthophosphate, tricalcium phosphate, and its chemical name is tricalcium diphosphate.

It is a white, amorphous, odourless and tasteless powder, stable in air. It is insoluble in water, in ethanol, but soluble in dilute acids ( HCl, HNO3 ). It has a melting temperature of 1670o C. The P2 O5 content for the anhydrous substance is between 38,5% and 48,0%. Loss on ignition at 800o C to constant weight is maximum 8%.[v]

Maximum inclusion dose: 1-3 g/kg.

The Acceptable Daily Intake for cumulative human consumption of phosphorus is up to 70 mg/kg body weight.[vi]

E341 Food InfoCons Consumers Protection

Why is it necessary to use E 341 additives?

The use of calcium orthophosphates (I, II and III) is a necessity for the food industry, due to their role as scavengers for copper, iron, zinc, lead ions, etc. This contributes to increasing the action of antioxidants by annihilating the prooxidant effect of these metals.

Due to their heavy metal chelating action, orthophosphates help to maintain the colour of meat dishes, fish, shellfish and crustacean preserves.

Through their buffering effect, orthophosphates (keeping the pH constant) play an important role in increasing the oxidative stability of some foodstuffs, such as eggs (pH 5-7), cereals, and at the same time contribute to keeping their colour unchanged during their preparation (after a certain storage time).

The role of antioxidant, buffering, sequestering, neutralising agent is also evident in confectionery and pastry products.1

Conclusions and Legislative Regulations E 341

Calcium phosphates, food additives E341 (I,II, and III) are listed in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as authorised food additives and classified as “other additives than colours and sweeteners”.

In 2019, EFSA considered phosphates (including tricalcium phosphate) to be of low toxicity and unrelated to genotoxicity, carcinogenicity and developmental toxicity after several studies. EFSA calculated a group acceptable daily intake (ADI) for phosphates, expressed as phosphorus, of 40 mg/kg body weight per day.6

 Author: dr.ing. Ancuta Fulvia Manolache

Bibliographic references

[i] Elena Oranescu, Food Additives-necessity and risk, SemnE Publishing House, 2005, Bucharest

[ii] Commission Regulation (EU) No 1129/2011 of 11 November 2011 amending Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council by establishing a Union list of food additives

[iii] https://foodadditives.net/phosphates/monocalcium-phosphate/

[iv] https://foodadditives.net/anticaking-agent/tricalcium-phosphate/#easy-footnote-bottom-6-471

[v] COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 231/2012 of 9 March 2012 laying down specifications for food additives listed in Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council

[vi] https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2019.5674

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