Orthochem’s Calcium Propionate


Orthochem’s Calcium Propionate – supplying the South African baking market since 1986


Calcium propionate is an essential baking ingredient for inhibiting mould and rope in bread and other yeast leavened baked goods.

Calcium proprionate is an organic salt formed by the reaction of lime with propionic acid (chemical formula Ca(CH3CH2COO)2) and is in essence a solid form of propionic acid, which makes it more convenient to handle and non-corrosive.

Propionic acid is chemically similar to the acetic acid of vinegar, differing by just one carbon atom. Very soluble in water, calcium propionate is generally sold in an agglomerated form as the powder grade generates dust during handling.

Its main purpose in the baking industry is that of a food preservative, assisting with the prevention of mould and rope in bread and other baked goods, which are frequent problems as the warm and moist nature of the bread production process and final product creates the ideal environment for the growth of moulds and bacteria.

Calcium propionate is an effective preservative as it inhibits the growth of moulds and other microorganisms, as well as some bacteria, including Bacillus Mesentericus, which causes rope. While calcium propionate is not lethal to these organisms, it inhibits their development, thus extending the mould and rope-free shelf life of the baked products.

Baking bread destroys any mould present in the bread dough, however, the bread is easily contaminated by airborne mould spores. Even the most stringent hygiene and HACCP procedures are unlikely to completely eliminate airborne mould spores. For this reason, a preservative such as calcium propionate is necessary if the finished product requires more than 2-3 days of mould-free shelf life.

Rope and mould are common problems in the baking industry and its distribution chain, which provides the ideal warm and moist environment for mould to thrive. Sliced, plastic-wrapped bread is very susceptible to mould.

The rate of mould development on bread is affected by numerous factors such as the recipe used, the number and type of mould spores in the environment, storage temperatures and humidity, so using an effective preservative will extend the mould-free shelf life of the product from 2-3 days to 5-6 days, minimising returns and ensuring customer satisfaction.

The effectiveness of calcium propionate is a function of the acidity of the medium as the compound is an effective anti-microbial / anti-fungal agent only in its undissociated or free acid form. The amount of free acid decreases exponentially as the pH rises so the preservative will be more effective in more acid breads such as white or sour dough bread compared to brown bread.

Calcium propionate is also widely used in other food products that do not contain yeast, but bread remains by far the largest market segment. It has been widely used in baking since the 1930’s and is today the most common preservative used in baked goods in South Africa as well as worldwide.

This is due to its numerous beneficial characteristics. In terms of safety, studies indicate that calcium propionate is one of the safest additives used by the food industry. So, despite the common consumer resistance against preservatives, there is no clinical proof that calcium propionate is harmful to humans, even at levels much higher than those used in bread and other foods. As such, it has been used worldwide for many decades and is considered safe, subject to the maximum dosage, by all the major food safety authorities.

Indeed, propionic acid occurs naturally in some foods where it acts as a preservative. Certain types of cheese, for example, contain as much as 1% naturally occurring propionic acid.

Calcium propionate is also favoured by the baking industry because it is yeast friendly. At the highest dosages, it can have a minor inhibiting effect on the yeast and thereby reduce bread volume but at normal dosage levels, calcium propionate has little or no effect on yeast activity.



Among the preservatives available to the baking industry, calcium propionate belongs to the group that has the smallest effect on the yeast, making it the product of choice for yeast-leavened products.



Although sodium propionate and sodium diacetate also inhibit the growth of mould and rope, calcium propionate is preferred as food producers are under pressure to reduce the sodium content of their products.

Furthermore, calcium propionate is a source of calcium, providing added value in terms of nutritional benefits. While offering all these advantages, calcium propionate has no effect on the taste or flavour of the baked goods. A propionic acid odour may be noticed when the bread is still hot, but it rapidly disappears during cooling.

Calcium propionate is also cost effective and easy to use. The cost amounts to around R0.08 per standard loaf of bread. Available in 25kg woven polypropylene sacks with a polyethylene liner, it can be added with the other minor dry ingredients in a premix or at the start of the dough mixing process.

Of course, as with all other ingredients, there are some issues to consider when using calcium propionate.

While calcium propionate is a proven, safe product, it is manufactured synthetically and is classified as an artificial preservative. Current labelling legislation requires preservatives to be declared on any food product label. According to international labelling standards, calcium propionate is declared on packaging with its E number E282. Its use must be declared even if it is contained in a premix supplied by an external supplier.

Another consideration is the fact that calcium propionate is only effective in preventing rope formation in bread baked in a clean and hygienic environment. If a rope “infection” occurs, the bakery must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Similarly, good hygiene, including good ventilation and clean air, is the primary defence against mould growth by minimising the number of mould spores in the air. Safety is also an important consideration in a baking environment. However, under normal conditions of safe and responsible use, calcium propionate does not present any undue health hazard.

The most important consideration, of course, is the correct dosage, to eliminate waste and reduce costs, while ensuring optimal results. Because many factors affect the rate of mould growth on bread, the usage level of calcium propionate cannot be correlated exactly with the extension of the shelf life.

In general, for standard bread recipes, a concentration of 0,2% – 0,4% calcium propionate based on flour mass is recommended.

Orthochem is the only company that manufactures calcium propionate in South Africa and is the largest manufacturer of bread preservatives in the Southern hemisphere. It is the major supplier of bread preservatives to the South African baking industry and has developed export markets in numerous countries.

Orthochem operates a state of the art production plant in Bethlehem and is FSSC 22000 certified, as well as Kosher and Halaal.

For more info click here …… https://www.orthochem.co.za/  


Please sign up to our newsletter and have the latest news, developments and innovations conveniently delivered to your inbox.


Copyright © 2022 - BakerSA - web design cape town