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    Emulsifier, in foods, any of numerous chemical additives that encourage the suspension of one liquid in another, as in the mixture of oil and water in margarine, shortening, ice cream, and salad dressing. A number of emulsifiers are derived from algae, among them algin, carrageenan, and agar. Lecithins, such as those found in egg yolk, are also used as emulsifying agents.

    The basic structure of an emulsifying agent includes a hydrophobic portion, usually a long-chain fatty acid, and a hydrophilic portion that may be either charged or uncharged. The hydrophobic portion of the emulsifier dissolves in the oil phase, and the hydrophilic portion dissolves in the aqueous phase, forming a dispersion of small oil droplets. Emulsifiers thus form and stabilize oil-in-water emulsions (e.g., mayonnaise), uniformly disperse oil-soluble flavour compounds throughout a product, prevent large ice-crystal formation in frozen products (e.g., ice cream), and improve the volume, uniformity, and fineness of baked products.