From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

‘Sheet’ or ‘leaf’ gelatin for cooking

Gelatin (or gelatine) is a translucent, colorless, brittle (when dry), flavorless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals’ skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in foodpharmaceuticalsphotography, and cosmetic manufacturing. Substances containing gelatin or functioning in a similar way are called gelatinous. Gelatin is an irreversibly hydrolysed form of collagen, and is classified as a foodstuff and therefore carries no E Number[1] [2]. It is found in some gummy candies as well as other products such as marshmallowsgelatin dessert, and some low-fat yogurt. Household gelatin comes in the form of sheets, granules, or powder. Instant types can be added to the food as they are; others need to be soaked in water beforehand.

Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, and pigs. The natural molecular bonds between individual collagen strands are broken down into a form that rearranges more easily. Gelatin melts to a liquid when heated and solidifies when cooled again. Together with water, it forms a semi-solid colloid gel.Composition and properties

Gelatin forms a solution of high viscosity in water, which sets to a gel on cooling, and its chemical composition is, in many respects, closely similar to that of its parent collagen.[1]

Gelatin solutions show viscoelastic flow and streaming birefringence. If gelatin is put into contact with cold water, some of the material dissolves, but not all. The solubility of the gelatin is determined by the method of manufacture. Typically, gelatin can be dispersed in a relatively concentrated acid. Such dispersions are stable for 10–15 days with little or no chemical changes and are suitable for coating purposes or for extrusion into a precipitating bath.

Gelatin is also soluble in most polar solvents. Gelatin gels exist over only a small temperature range, the upper limit being the melting point of the gel, which depends on gelatin grade and concentration and the lower limit, the freezing point at which ice crystallizes. The mechanical properties (see Bloom (test)) are very sensitive to temperature variations, previous thermal history of the gel, and time. The viscosity of the gelatin/water mixture increases with concentration and when kept cool (≈ 4 °C).


Materials Used in Gelatin Production.svg
Gelatin Production by Geography.svg

The worldwide production amount of gelatin is about 300,000 tons per year (roughly 600 million lb).[citation needed] On a commercial scale, gelatin is made from by-products of the meat and leather industry. Recently, fish by-products have also been considered because they eliminate some of the religious obstacles surrounding gelatin consumption.[2][not in citation given] Gelatin is derived mainly from pork skins, pork and cattle bones, or split cattle hides; contrary to popular belief, horns and hooves are not used.[3] The raw materials are prepared by different curing, acid, and alkali processes which are employed to extract the dried collagen hydrolysate. These processes[4] may take up to several weeks, and differences in such processes have great effects on the properties of the final gelatin products.[5]

Gelatin can also be prepared in the home. Boiling certain cartilaginous cuts of meat or bones will result in gelatin being dissolved into the water. Depending on the concentration, the resulting broth (when cooled) will naturally form a jelly or gel. This process is used for aspic.

While there are many processes whereby collagen can be converted to gelatin, they all have several factors in common. The intermolecular and intramolecular bonds which stabilize insoluble collagen rendering it insoluble must be broken, and the hydrogen bonds which stabilize the collagenhelix must also be broken.[1] The manufacturing processes of gelatin consists of three main stages:

  1. Pretreatments to make the raw materials ready for the main extraction step and to remove impurities which may have negative effects on physio chemical properties of the final gelatin product,
  2. The main extraction step, which is usually done with hot water or dilute acid solutions as a multi-stage extraction to hydrolyze collagen into gelatin, and finally,
  3. The refining and recovering treatments including filtration, clarification, evaporation, sterilization, drying, rutting, grinding, and sifting to remove the water from the gelatin solution, to blend the gelatin extracted, and to obtain dried, blended and ground final product.


If the physical material that will be used in production is derived from bones, dilute acid solutions are used to remove calcium and similar salts. Hot water or several solvents may be used for de-greasing. Maximum fat content of the material should not exceed 1% before the main extraction step. If the raw material is hides and skin, size reduction, washing, removing hair from the hides, and de-greasing are the most important pretreatments used to make the hides and skins ready for the main extraction step. Raw material preparation for extraction is done by three different methods: acid, alkali, and enzymatic treatments. Acid treatment is especially suitable for less fully crosslinked materials such as pig skin collagen. Pig skin collagen is less complex than the collagen found in bovine hides. Acid treatment is faster than alkali treatment and normally requires 10 to 48 hours. Alkali treatment is suitable for more complex collagen, e.g., the collagen found in bovine hides. This process requires longer time, normally several weeks. The purpose of the alkali treatment is to destroy certain chemical crosslinkages still present in collagen. The gelatin obtained from acid treated raw material has been called type-A gelatin, and the gelatin obtained from alkali treated raw material is referred to as type-B gelatin. Enzymatic treatments used for preparing raw material for the main extraction step are relatively new. Enzymatic treatments have some advantages in contrast to alkali treatment. Time required for enzymatic treatment is short, the yield is almost 100% in enzymatic treatment, the purity is also higher, and the physical properties of the final gelatin product are better.


After preparation of the raw material, i.e., reducing crosslinkages between collagen components and removing some of the impurities such as fat and salts, partially purified collagen is converted into gelatin by extraction with either water or acid solutions at appropriate temperatures. All industrial processes are based on neutral or acid pH values because though alkali treatments speed up conversion, they also promote degradation processes. Acid extract conditions are extensively used in the industry but the degree of acid varies with different processes. This extraction step is a multi stage process, and the extraction temperature is usually increased in later extraction steps. This procedure ensures the minimum thermal degradation of the extracted gelatin.


This process includes several steps such as filtration, evaporation, drying, grinding, and sifting. These operations are concentration-dependent and also dependent on the particular gelatin used. Gelatin degradation should be avoided and minimized, therefore the lowest temperature possible is used for the recovery process. Most recoveries are rapid, with all of the processes being done in several stages to avoid extensive deterioration of the peptide structure. A deteriorated peptide structure would result in a low gelling strength, which is not generally desired.


Probably best known as a gelling agent in cooking, different types and grades of gelatin are used in a wide range of food and non-food products: Common examples of foods that contain gelatin aregelatin dessertstriflesaspicmarshmallowscandy corn, and confections such as Peepsgummy bears and jelly babies. Gelatin may be used as a stabilizer, thickener, or texturizer in foods such asjamsyogurtcream cheese, and margarine; it is used, as well, in fat-reduced foods to simulate the mouthfeel of fat and to create volume without adding calories.

Eggs in aspic

Gelatin is used for the clarification of juices, such as apple juice, and of vinegar. Isinglass, from the swim bladders of fish, is still used as a fining agent for wine and beer.[6] Beside hartshorn jelly, from deer antlers (hence the name “hartshorn”), isinglass was one of the oldest sources of gelatin.

Technical uses

Capsules made of gelatin.

  • Certain professional and theatrical lighting equipment use color gels to change the beam color. These were historically made with gelatin, hence the term color gel.
  • Gelatin typically constitutes the shells of pharmaceutical capsules in order to make them easier to swallow. Hypromellose is a vegan-acceptable alternative to gelatin, but is more expensive to produce.
  • Animal glues such as hide glue are essentially unrefined gelatin.
  • It is used to hold silver halide crystals in an emulsion in virtually all photographic films and photographic papers. Despite some efforts, no suitable substitutes with the stability and low cost of gelatin have been found.
  • Used as a carrier, coating or separating agent for other substances; for example, it makes beta-carotene water-soluble thus imparting a yellow colour to any soft drinks containing beta-carotene.
  • Gelatin is closely related to bone glue and is used as a binder in match heads and sandpaper.
  • Cosmetics may contain a non-gelling variant of gelatin under the name hydrolyzed collagen.
  • Gelatin was first used as an external surface sizing for paper in 1337 and continued as a dominant sizing agent of all European papers through the mid-19th century.[7] In modern times it occasionally found in some glossy printing papers, artistic papers, playing cards, and it maintains the wrinkles in crêpe paper.

Other uses

  • Blocks of ballistic gelatin simulate muscle tissue as a standardized medium for testing firearms ammunition.
  • Gelatin is used by synchronized swimmers to hold their hair in place during their routines as it will not dissolve in the cold water of the pool. It is frequently referred to as “knoxing,” a reference to Knox brand gelatin.[8]
  • When added to boiling water and cooled, unflavored gelatin can make a home-made hair styling gel that is cheaper than many commercial hair styling products, but by comparison has a shorter shelf life (about a week) when stored in this form (usually in a refrigerator). After being applied to scalp hair, it can be removed with rinsing and some shampoo.
  • It is commonly used as a biological substrate to culture adherent cells.
  • Also used by those who are sensitive to tannins (which can irritate the stomach) in teas, soups or brews.
  • It may be used as a medium with which to consume LSD. LSD in gelatin form is known as “windowpane” or “geltabs.”
  • Gelatin is used to make the shells of paintballs, similar to the way pharmaceutical capsules are produced.
  • Gelatin is also used as an ingredient in implantable medical devices, such as in some bone void fillers. Doctors may discuss this with their patients in cases of religious beliefs.
  • Gelatin is also used in nail polish remover and makeup applications. The gelatin is often tinted in different colors to match a model’s natural skin tone.
  • Leaf or sheet gelatin is also used directly in food-based model-making, for example to make translucent, edible, diamond-paned windows in gingerbread houses.[9]

Religion and gelatin substitutes

Special kinds of gelatin indicate the specific animal that was used for its production. For example, Muslim halal or Jewish kosher customs may require gelatin from sources other than pigs, like cows and/or fish and from animals slaughtered ritually. Muslims do not eat foods or use products that contain gelatin derived from porcine sources and there is debate on whether Muslims can consume gelatin derived from animals which were not slaughtered in the Islamic ritual manner. There are many companies that specifically indicate the source of the gelatin used and let the consumers know this via the nutrition information and/or their hotline.[citation needed] Likewise, Hindu customs may require gelatin from sources other than animals. Many Hindus are vegetarian; however, the few Hindus who are not vegetarians don’t mind gelatin from all the sources but cow, which is considered sacred. Vegans and most vegetarians choose not to eat foods containing gelatin made from animals. Romanipeople (Gypsies) are cautious of gelatin products that may have been made from horses, as consuming horses is culturally forbidden to them.

Some dietary or religious customs forbid the use of gelatin from certain animal sources, and medical issues may limit or prevent its consumption by certain people.

Alternatives to gelatin include non-animal gel sources such as agar-agar (a seaweed), carrageenanpectinkonjak, and guar gum.

Medical and nutritional properties

Amino acid composition

Although gelatin is 98-99% protein by dry weight, it has less nutritional value than many other protein sources. Gelatin is unusually high in the non-essentialamino acids glycine and proline (i.e., those produced by the human body), while lacking certain essential amino acids (i.e., those not produced by the human body). It contains no tryptophan and is deficient in isoleucinethreonine, and methionine. The approximate amino acid composition of gelatin is: glycine 21%,proline 12%, hydroxyproline 12%, glutamic acid 10%, alanine 9%, arginine 8%, aspartic acid 6%, lysine 4%, serine 4%, leucine 3%, valine 2%,phenylalanine 2%, threonine 2%, isoleucine 1%, hydroxylysine 1%, methionine and histidine <1% and tyrosine <0.5%. These values vary, especially the minor constituents, depending on the source of the raw material and processing technique.[10]

Several Russian researchers offer the following opinion regarding certain peptides found in gelatin: “gelatin peptides reinforce resistance of the stomach mucous tunic to ethanol and stress action, decreasing the ulcer area by twice.”[11]

Gelatin is also a topical haemostatic. A piece of gelatin sponge of appropriate size is applied on bleeding wound, pressed for some time and tied in bandage. Haemostatic action is based on platelets damage at the contact of blood with gelatin, which activates the coagulation cascade. Gelatin also causes atamponading effect – blood flow stoppage into a blood vessel by a constriction of the vessel by an outside force.[12]

Gelatin has also been claimed to promote general joint health. A study at Ball State University sponsored by Nabisco, the former parent company of Knox gelatin,[13] found that gelatin supplementation relieved knee joint pain and stiffness in athletes.[14]

Safety concerns

Strict regulations apply for all steps in the gelatin manufacturing process. Gelatin is produced from natural raw materials which originate from animals that have been examined and accepted for human consumption by veterinary authorities. Hygienic regulations with respect to fresh raw materials are ensured and each batch of raw material delivered to the manufacturing plant is immediately checked and documented.

In addition to the raw material quality, also the production process itself is an effective quality assurance measure. In the production process a comprehensive monitoring system ensures that potential risks are minimized.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with support from the TSE (Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) Advisory Committee, has since 1997 been monitoring the potential risk of transmitting animal diseases, especially bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The FDA study concluded: “…steps such as heat, alkaline treatment, and filtration could be effective in reducing the level of contaminating TSE agents; however, scientific evidence is insufficient at this time to demonstrate that these treatments would effectively remove the BSE infectious agent if present in the source material.”[15]

The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) of the European Union (EU) in 2003 stated that the risk associated with bovine bone gelatin is very low or zero.[16][17] In 2006 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that the SSC opinion was confirmed, that the BSE risk of bone-derived gelatin was very small, and removed support for the 2003 request of excluding the skull and vertebrae of bovine origin older than 12 months from the material used in gelatin manufacturing.[18]

All reputable gelatin manufacturers today follow the Quality Management System according to ISO 9001 to comply with all required physical, chemical, microbiological and technical production and quality standards. In this way all process steps follow international laws and customer-specific quality parameters and are guaranteed and documented. For pharmaceutical grade gelatins strict regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European CPMP’s regulation and European Pharmacopoeia must be met. A detailed overview of the regulatory requirements for gelatin production can be found in the Gelatine Handbook, page 99-101.[19]


  1. a b Ward, A.G.; Courts, A. (1977). The Science and Technology of Gelatin. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0127350500.
  2. ^ “What is Halal?”. Islamic Services of America. Retrieved 2006-12-04.
  3. ^ “Gelatine information, news, history and more”. Gelatine Manufacturers Institute of America. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  4. ^ “ Gelatin, Hydrolyzed collagen. Properties, processes, applications in the confectionnery, dairy, pharmaceutical. Now is mostly used from plants industries”. ROUSSELOT. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  5. ^ “”. GELITA Group. Retrieved 2006-12-04.
  6. ^ “National Organic Standards Board Technical Advisory Panel Review: Gelatin processing” (PDF).
  7. ^ Thurn, Jim. “History, Chemistry, and Long Term Effects of Alum-Rosin Size in Paper”.
  8. ^ “2008 United States Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team” (PDF).
  9. ^
  10. ^ Stevens, P.V. (1992). “Unknown”Food Australia 44 (7): 320–324. Retrieved 2005-08-11.
  11. ^ “Gelatin Treats Ulcer”Medical News Today. August 22, 2006.
  12. ^ Денисенко, Петр Прокофьевич (2003). Современные лекарственные средства: Клинико-фармакологический справочник, Петр Прокофьевич ДенисенкоISBN 9785765427385.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Pearson, David. “Gelatin found to reduce joint pain in athletes”.
  15. ^ U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “The Sourcing and Processing of Gelatin to Reduce the Potential Risk Posed by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in FDA-Regulated Products for Human Use”.
  16. ^ The Scientific Steering Committee (6–7 March 2003). “Updated Opinion On The Safety With Regard To TSE Risks Of Gelatine Derived From Ruminant Bones or Hides”.
  17. ^ Gelatine Manufacturers of Europe (GME) (June 2003). “The Removal and Inactivation of Potential TSE Infectivity by the Different Gelatin Manufacturing Processes”.
  18. ^ Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (18 January 2006). “Quantitative assessment of the human BSE risk posed by gelatine with respect to residual BSE risk”.
  19. ^ Herbert Gareis; Reinhard Schrieber (2007). Gelatine Handbook: Theory and Industrial Practice. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. ISBN 3-527-31548-9.

About FahmieSabri

Lecturer at Politeknik Merlimau Melaka, Tourism & Hospitality Department

Posted on February 7, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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