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The date of the discovery of gelatin remains obscure, but is probably related to the discovery that boiling pieces

of skin and bone from animals killed for food produced a substance that was liquid when hot, and solidified when
The earliest commercial production of gelatin appears to have been in Holland around 1685, followed shortly
thereafter in England about 1700. The first commercial production of gelatin in the United States was in
Massachusetts in 1808.
In the National Formulary gelatin, CAS# 9000-70-8, is defined as a product obtained by the partial hydrolysis of
collagen derived from the skin, white connective tissue and bones of animals. Gelatin does not occur free in
nature, and cannot be recovered from horns, hoofs and other non-collagen containing parts of vertebrate
animals. There are no plant sources of gelatin, and there is no chemical relationship between gelatin and other
materials referred to as vegetable gelatin, such as seaweed extracts.
Gelatin derived from an acid-treated precursor is known as Type A, and gelatin derived from an alkali-treated
precursor is known as Type B. Gelatin is a protein and in aqueous solutions is a hydrophilic colloid.
Today, the seven member companies of the Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America annually produce a
combined total of over 110 million pounds of gelatin. Gelatin is an important material, finding application in the
food, pharmaceutical and photographic industries as well as diverse technical uses.

Gelatin is pure and natural

Commercial gelatin is manufactured in modern factories operated to the highest health and safety standards.
The raw material for gelatin manufacture is the naturally occurring protein collagen, which is commercially
sourced from the meat industry. Each stage of the manufacturing process is rigorously controlled in modern
laboratories to ensure purity and quality. The process of converting collagen into gelatin involves several
cleansing and purification steps and the end result is a pale yellow dry powder which is a true foodstuff.
Gelatin contains:

84-90% protein

1-2% mineral salts

8-15% water
It is free from additives and preservatives

Gelatin is a high-grade protein

We cannot exist without protein, therefore edible gelatin - a pure and easily digestible protein - is a particularly
important part of our diet. Other nutrients, such as fats and carbohydrates, can often substitute each other in
human metabolism, but protein can rarely, if ever, be substituted and a regular intake is essential for our health
and well being.
Proteins are many and varied but are not all equal in their nutritional value.

Proteins are based on amino-acids

The building blocks of the various types of protein are amino acids. Our body is capable of building the proteins it
requires from amino acids and to some extent is also capable of creating amino acids from digestive fragments.
This is not true of all amino acid types, which means that we must eat ten essential amino acids regularly in our
food. Edible gelatin contains nine of these essential amino acids.

Gelatin structures
Gelatin contains specific amounts of 18 different amino acids (AA) which are joined together in sequences to
form polypeptide chains of ca. 1000 AA per chain, scientifically known as the primary structure. Three of the
polypeptide chains formed this way join together as a left-hand spiral to give the secondary structure. In the
tertiary structure, the spiral winds and folds itself to a right-hand spiral (triple helix). This results in a rod-shaped
molecule, the so-called proto fibril.

Quality characteristics
Several types of edible gelatin are available with varying characteristics depending on the application and end
product. Edible gelatin is a foodstuff and must satisfy strict purity regulations. An important element in
determining the quality of gelatin is the firmness or strength of the set gel. This is characterized by the "Bloom"
value. The viscosity of solution is also an important factor in manufacturing processes such as for wine gums or
"gummi bears" where gelatins with a low viscosity are used to prevent "ailing" (molding deposits). The setting
point indicates the temperature at which a 10% aqueous gelatin solution gels. For photographic, pharmaceutical,
toiletries and technical applications, other characteristics are important.
The best way to dissolve gelatin powder is to soak it in cold water for a short time and then gently warm the
water until the gelatin has melted.
Other types such as leaf gelatin can be simply added to the recipe and allowed to absorb liquid during cooling.
Instant gelatins are available as powders, which do not need heating or "soaking" time. These are used for
stabilizing foods such as gateaux or desserts.

Protein hydrolysates: A very special type of gelatin

By means of a thermo-biochemical process, pure proteins with no "gel strength" (Bloom value = 0) can be
derived from powdered gelatins. They dissolve easily in cold liquids and are completely digestible. Due to their
biological value and bland taste, they provide a palatable source of protein in dietetic foods.
Thus they are used as:

Carbohydrate-free carrier substances and fillers for spray or fluid-bed dried products such as instant
drinks and flavorings.
A substitute for carbohydrates in sweets and other foods. Hydrolyzed gelatin solutions can replace
more concentrated solutions of carbohydrates and consequently reduce the calorific value.
A source of protein for the manufacture of sweets and other foods with a high nutritional value.
An emulsifier and whipping agent producing a fine-pore, extremely stable foam in dairy products.
A clarifier and fining agent in wines and juices.

Protein hydrolysates are also widely used in cosmetics and toilet requisites as well as in the wide field of
biotechnology, where suitable protein sources are required as media for the growth of micro-organisms.

Instant gelatins
Available as powders which do not need heating or soaking time, these are used for stabilizing foods such as
gateaux and desserts.

Gelatin is a vitreous, brittle solid that is faintly yellow to white and nearly tasteless and odorless. It contains 8490% protein, 1-2% mineral salts and 8-15% water.
Gelatin is a foodstuff and not a food additive. Consequently it has no "E" number.

Protein quality of gelatin

Gelatin contains 9 of the amino acids essential for humans.

Amino Acid

g amino acids per

100 g pure protein



Amino Acid

g amino acids per

100 g pure protein

Leucine *


Arginine *


Lysine *


Aspartic Acid


Methionine *


Glutamic Acid








Threonine *


Histidine *




Tryptophan *










Isoleucine *


* Essential Amino Acid

For daily nutrition, the amino acid composition of gelatin is of little importance, because normally the intake of
gelatin generally takes place together with other proteins such as meat, potatoes and cereals.
Classic experiments demonstrate however that, with the addition of gelatin, the biological value of mixtures can
be increased. For example, the addition of gelatin to beef results in an increase of the biological value from 92 to
Therefore, gelatin can complete and increase the amino acid composition of other protein sources.

Gelatin also appears to be beneficial to athletes for muscle growth and metabolism, as it contains lysine, which is
important for muscle growth and arginine a precursor of creatine, an amino acid important for the energy
metabolism of muscle cells.

Gelatin as a fat substitute

Today many of us consume too many calories in our daily diet. Therefore demand for low or fat-free products is
continuously increasing.
This is a dilemma for modern food-designers because fat is an important factor influencing
taste in your foods.
In this context the sensory quality of gelatin is of great importance. The melting-point of gelatin
resembles the body temperature of human beings. Thus the melting of gelatin causes a rich
mouth feel that is far superior to other fat-substitutes.
By using gelatin as a fat substitute, it is possible to reduce the energy content of food without
any negative effects on taste.

Dietetic properties
Many illnesses in Western industrial nations are caused by malnutrition or constant overeating.
Approximately one third of the population is overweight, resulting in high-blood pressure,
diabetes, upsets in fat metabolism or gout. Being overweight can also be a factor in the development of
arteriosclerosis and cardiac problems.
Gelatin can assist in weight reduction programs because it allows the creation of nutritious, yet low calorie
dishes. Gelatin contains no fat, sugar, purines or cholesterol and it can bind large quantities of water which helps
impart a "fuller" feeling after a meal or it can be used to replace high calorie content binders like cream, egg yolk
or starchy products.
Gelatin can also be used to create a nutritious and varied dietary plan for patients and convalescents. It is highly
nutritious yet easily digestible and can be used in liquid foods which are palatable and easy to absorb.

Treatment of osteoarthritis
There is also evidence that eating gelatin regularly is beneficial in the treatment of joint conditions.
Recent investigations by Prof. Milan Adam from Prague have shown that gelatin therapy is effective when
administered early and continuously for at least two months at a level of 10g daily. The therapy has to be
repeated at intervals. The recommended dose can be integrated in the normal daily protein intake and, as gelatin
protein resembles body protein collagen, no toxic side effects are known or anticipated.
Gelatin protein contains a high portion of the hydroxyproline, hydrosylysine and arginine. Together with the
sulphur-containing amino acid L-cystine these amino acids are the essential building blocks for synthesis of
collagen and proteoglycans in cartilage.
It is believed that an optimal availability of such amino acids can prevent the degeneration of cartilage in
This positive effect of gelatin is confirmed by the results of recent therapy-studies and experiments.
Investigations to improve the condition of rough and broken finger-nails and the texture of hair have also shown
that the regular consumption of gelatin has a positive effect.

Product safety
Due to modern manufacturing sites and the use of highly advanced, HACCP controlled, manufacturing
processes with numerous purification steps (washing, filtration), heat treatments including a final UHT
sterilization step followed by drying of the gelatin solution, gelatin is of highest quality regarding physical,
chemical, bacteriological and virological safety.
Even in the case of TSE, bovine gelatin is BSE safe because it is produced from raw materials (bovine skin and
bone) classified as carrying no detectable infectivity, originating from animals inspected by veterinarians and

passed fit for human consumption. Studies were made to assess reduction of hypothetical infectivity if
spongiform encephalopathy (SE) carrying tissues (e.g. brain tissue) were to contaminate the raw materials.
The Gelatin Manufacturers of Europe (GME) have initiated several studies to demonstrate the capability of
certain steps in gelatin production to inactivate BSE infectivity if it were at all present. These show a reduction of
spongiform encephalopathy (SE) infectivity for acid demineralization and lime treatment of 10 and 100 times
respectively. The combined reduction has been found to be 1000 times.
Another study carried out at Gttingen University {Manske et al (1996)} showed that after degreasing (second
step in the gelatin production) nerve tissue was no longer detectable in the degreased bones.
When bovine heads (including the brain) - especially processed to carry out this experiment - were investigated
in the same way, nerve specific tissues were reduced by 98 to 99%. However, this was done for the sake of the
experiment, as bovine heads are not used in the production of gelatin.
The classical UHT sterilization used in gelatin manufacture should reduce any residual infectivity 100 times, or
more probably 1000 times (Taylor et al (1994)).
Washing, filtration, ion exchange and other chemicals or treatments used in the manufacture of gelatin will
reduce the SE activity even further (by an assumed ratio of 100 times).
In the unlikely event of any initial contamination of raw material, the gelatin manufacturing process would reduce
SE activity:

A hundred times by degreasing

Ten times by acid demineralization
A hundred times by alkaline purification
A hundred times by washing, filtration, ion exchange, etc.
A final hundred times by sterilization (assuming the log average).

Thus, the combined effect of the processing stages is a reduction of the order of a thousand million times.
The gelatin production process is efficient enough to remove and/or inactivate minimal residual infectivity.
Raw material for hide gelatin is definitely not infectious and it is extremely unlikely that hides could become
cross-contaminated by infectious material.


The raw materials used in gelatin production come only from animals inspected by vets and passed fit
for human consumption.
All GMIA members are ISO 9000 certified which ensures that the origin of all raw materials used can be
Apart from the inherent safety of the raw materials, gelatin is a highly refined, purified product,
manufactured by a sophisticated process which would provide additional safeguards if they were
required. This includes several production stages which both serve to physically remove contaminants
and also provide a destructive effect on the BSE agent if it were conceivably present.
The World Health Organization has concluded that gelatin is safe to eat.
All GMIA manufacturers exclusively use raw material from USDA or CFIA registered establishments.

The facts
One of the consequences of the BSE crisis - and the anti-beef bandwagon that followed - was the aggressive
marketing of a range of hydrocolloids which claimed to replace gelatin in food manufacture.
These were largely products that had failed to gain acceptance as credible gelatin replacers - and their
disadvantages are evident in the table overleaf.

Despite the fact that the safety of gelatin has been recognized and confirmed by international experts in respect
of BSE, the advocates of these replacers still allude to concern over gelatin safety as well as the need to cater
for special diets.
Admittedly, gelatin is unsuitable for the vegetarian minority who number around seven per cent of the population
- and alternatives are available for religious or ethnic diets. However, for the manufacture of products consumed
by the majority in this country, gelatin offers unrivaled benefits.
Gelatin is a highly versatile ingredient with a healthy, and well accepted nutritional profile. With the media and
consumer spotlight now on genetically modified foods, its credentials are beyond reproach.


Cost Effective

A little gelatin goes a long way

It can be used to bulk more expensive ingredients
Highly competitive price

Multi Functional

Film forming


A pure, natural protein

A food with no additives or E numbers
Easily digestible
Low in calories
Contains no cholesterol or purines



Gelatin is multi-functional: gelling, thickening, waterbinding, emulsifying, foaming, film forming...

No other single hydrocolloid offers the same

combination of functionalities.

Gelatin forms a thermoreversible gel which melts at

around body temperature resulting in excellent
texture and intensive flavor and aroma release.

Other hydrocolloids do not have this property.

Gelatin is available in different gel strengths and

particle sizes and can be tailor made for specific

Generally, other hydrocolloids do not cover a range

of gel strengths - modification of jelly strength is
therefore achieved by blending with other
ingredients such as sugars and salts.

Particle size can be adapted to production needs to

achieve easy solubility.

Solubility can only be achieved by blending with

other ingredients and/or at a higher temperature or

by applying shear force.

Gelatin is fully and easily digestible.

Some hydrocolloids prevent the uptake of trace


Gelatin is easy to use - it gels within the normal pH

range of most foods and does not require the
addition of salts or sugars to set.

Often the addition of salts, food acids or sugars are

necessary to form a gel.



Gelatin is a food.

Modified starches have E numbers

Texture and clarity are natural properties of gelatin.

Starches and modified starches do not create

comparable texture and clarity

Gelatins properties arise naturally.

Starch has to be modified to obtain some of the

properties of gelatin

Gelatin requires no chemical modification.

Modifications are done chemically

Gelatin can be declared free of genetic


Starches can be obtained from genetically modified


There is long standing knowledge of gelatin and its

metabolism is well known.

The metabolism of chemically modified starches is

not so well known.

Gelatin has no limit of intake.

Modified starches have an ADI which indicates there

is a limit for ingestion.

Gelatin can be consumed daily without health


The effect on health of the daily consumption of

modified hydrocolloids is unknown.