- 1 Calcium chloride
Blizzards, Swimming Pools, Glass and Stewed Tomatoes
So what do snow storms, swimming pools, glass and canned tomatoes have in common? Since you can see the title of this post, you’ve probably already guessed that the answer is calcium chloride.
Calcium chloride is a very widely used chemical. North American consumption in 2002 was 1,687,000 tons1. It can be used for:
- Melting ice and snow on roads,
- Controlling dust on roads,
- Hand warmers,
- Ensuring dryness in packaging (as a desiccant),
- Animal sterilization, and
- Reducing erosion of concrete in swimming pools.
Why is Calcium Chloride in My Food?
Calcium chloride is commonly used in a wide range of food products. Everything from cheese and tofu to beer, canned fruits and vegetables and sports drinks.
Calcium chloride is a food additive with an E number of 509. It often added to food as a firming agent. It reacts with the natural pectin found in fruits to prevent softening that may occur during processing.
Here is a list of some common products that contain calcium chloride:
When making cheese, calcium chloride helps create a firmer setting curd. Store bought (pasturized) milk or goats milk may have a lower calcium content. The amount of calcium in the milk will affect coagulation and coagulation time of the cheese. Adding the calcium chloride allows cheese makers to better control the coagulation process. The amount of calcium chloride added will depend on:
- the acidity (pH) and calcium concentration of the milk;
- processing conditions, such as temperature;
- desired coagulating time.
To get the correct mineral levels and acidity in the brewing water used for beer, calcium chloride is just one of the “brewing salts” that may be added.
Molecular Gastronomy – Spherification
One of the most interesting uses is in a process called spherification where it is combined with sodium alginate. This Molecular gastronomy technique is used to make fake (faux) caviar, often using fruit or vegetable juices.
Calcium chloride is a simple molecule composed of one calcium atom and two Chlorine atoms. The chemical formula is CaCl2
Where does Calcium Chloride Come From?
It does occur naturally in some minerals, but it is very rare.
This is where the glass fits into the puzzle. In 1861, a Belgian chemist named Ernest Solvay, invented a process for producing sodium carbonate (sometimes called soda ash). Sodium carbonate was coming into high demand at the time because it is used in glass making. Glass is made by melting silica sand, calcium carbonate and sodium carbonate together.
Solvay’s process basically takes limestone (CaCO3) and salt Brine (2 NaCl) to produce sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). And, you won’t be surprised to find out that the main by-product of the Solvay process is calcium chloride. Of course the actual Solvay process is quite a bit more complicated than I can explain here. For anybody whose interested, the chemical formula is:
2 NaCl + CaCO3 → Na2CO3 + CaCl2
Health Issues / Side Effects:
I have not found any reports of health issues or side effects of calcium chloride when used at levels normally found in food. The U.S. Food and Drug administration classified it as “Generally Regarded as Safe” (GRAS) in 1975.2
If anybody has any reports to the contrary, please leave a comment, and I will update this post. Thanks.