Lecithin is authorised as a food additive in the EU under the E-number E322.
Lecithin is used in food as an emulsifier, instantiser, antioxidant and flavour protector, often providing a finishing touch that brings quality and excellence to many food products.
Its use as an emulsifier to keep water and fats from separating in chocolate and compound coatings is well-known, but lecithin is also used in e.g. margarine, bread products, ice cream and dairy products, infant formulas and convenience foods.
Lecithin is also used as a technological and nutritional component in dietetics, and in pharmaceutical products, animal feeds, cosmetics and the chemical and technical industries.
Lecithin was originally discovered by French chemist Maurice Gobley, who named a substance he extracted from egg yolk after the Greek word for egg yolk, “lekithos”. Lecithin has been in commercial use for more than a century, but since the extraction process from egg yolk proved costly for certain applications lecithin is today not only extracted from egg (egg lecithin) but also from soybean (soy lecithin) and other sources such as sunflowerseed, rapeseed and maize.