The term DATEM is an acronym for the food additive E472e, and stands for “diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides”. A mouthful, I know. It’s a popular emulsifier and is primarily used in baked goods because it strengthens the gluten network in dough. A lot of folks run across the ingredient and want to know if it’s vegan.
Is it vegan? It’s complicated, but DATEM is generally considered suitable for vegan consumption. It’s a grey area for some vegans because it’s produced from precursors that can be derived from animals but can also be sourced from plants.
Keep in mind that, though it can be a grey area for some, food products that contain DATEM are not, by most standards, considered non-vegan by virtue of containing the additive.
Vegans vary quite a bit in the degree to which they abstain from ambiguous ingredients like DATEM that can be vegan if sourced from X but can be non-vegan if sourced from Y.
What we’ll do in this article is go over the various reasons why DATEM is considered by most to be suitable for vegan consumption, as well as the reasons that some view it as off-limits, or at the very least, something to be restricted.
Why DATEM Is Considered By Some To Be Non-Vegan
DATEM is derived from monoglycerides, diglycerides, and tartaric acid.1,2 It’s composed of mixed esters of glycerin wherein one or more of the hydroxyl groups (of the glycerin molecule) has been esterified by fatty acids and diacetyl tartaric acid.
This is just a fancy way of saying the ingredient is prepared by reacting tartaric acid with mono- and diglycerides.
The mono- and diglycerides can be derived from any edible source.3 So, it’s the mono- and diglycerides that are problematic for some vegans.
Mono- and diglycerides are, in fact, mentioned in PETA’s list of animal-derived ingredients.4
You’ve probably heard of triglycerides, which is the form of fat that occupies our fat cells. Triglycerides have three fatty acids (FAs) bound to a glycerol backbone, while mono- and diglycerides have one and two FAs, respectively.5
So, if mono- and diglycerides are included on PETA’s list of animal-derived ingredients, why do most vegans consume them?
Well, it seems that most DATEM used in baked goods are made from vegetable fat.6
It’s also important to keep in mind that PETA’s list is really a mix of ingredients that are known to be non-vegan as well as ingredients that are potentially non-vegan.
DATEM falls into the latter category. Industrially, mono- and diglycerides to be produced by reacting triglycerides with glycerol.7
The raw materials used for this reaction can be derived from both vegetable and animal fats. For this reason, some vegans choose to avoid the ingredient, especially when the source of the compound isn’t stated clearly on the label.
Why DATEM Is Typically Considered Vegan
DATEM Is Contained in a Number of Vegan Staple Foods
Why is this important? Well, it’s hard to make an argument that an ingredient is unsuitable for vegans when so many food products that vegans consume contain so much of the stuff.
The mere consumption of a food product by self-proclaimed vegans doesn’t render a food non-vegan. But, when it comes to ambiguous ingredients, looking to the community-wide consensus is useful.
Take bread products, for example. Most bread, unless it has honey, egg, or milk products (some of the richer breads), is considered vegan. And vegans consume the stuff by the truckload.
DATEM is added to crusty breads, such as rye because it imparts a chewy, springy texture.3 Like lecithin in egg yolk, mono- and diglycerides are used to stabilize and emulsify ingredients, because they attract both water and fat molecules.
Datem plays a number of roles in baked goods such as increasing the volume and shelf-life of yeast-leavened breads and bread products.8-10
DATEM improves the stability of dough and allows better handling and tolerance in the production of yeast-raised bread products.6
The food additive is widely used as an emulsifier in Europe for bread products because it seems to act as a crumb softener and dough strengthener.11 The addition of DATEM also improves the dispersal of shortening within the dough.11
DATEM tends to be used quite a bit in breakfast biscuits. Low-fat biscuits have been successfully made by substituting shortenings with stable fat emulsions along with DATEM.12
So, the compound is ubiquitous in many vegan staple foods.
Most Vegans Don’t Scrutinize Ambiguous Ingredients Too Heavily
PETA said it best in their article outlining a list of animal-derived ingredients, “While we hope this list proves helpful, we also want to emphasize that no one can avoid every single animal ingredient. Being vegan is about helping animals, not maintaining personal purity.”4
So, vegans tend not to scrutinize ingredients that can be derived from both animal and non-animal sources, because there’s really no way of knowing how they were derived short of reaching out to the manufacturer.
Sure, some products will state “plant diglycerides” or what have you, but that’s pretty rare unless the product is marketed to a health-conscious crowd.
Is DATEM Vegan? Conclusion
Whether or not to consume DATEM or mono- and diglycerides really comes down to a personal choice. If you are a particularly prudent vegan, you may want to avoid the ingredient. But, consuming food products containing the additive will not make you non-vegan by most standards in the community.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Is Silicone Vegan? What About Silicon or Silica Gel?
- Is Cellulose Gum Vegan?
- Is Maltodextrin Vegan?
- Is Salt Vegan? (Table Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt, Sea Salt, Etc.)
- Is Tapioca Really Vegan?
- F. D. Gunstone (1 January 1994). The Lipid Handbook. Chapman & Hall. pp. 299–300. ISBN 978-0-412-43320-7. https://books.google.com/books?id=m9J9pTDZEGEC
- Robert J. Whitehurst (15 April 2008). Emulsifiers in Food Technology. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 86–88. ISBN 978-1-4051-4799-6. https://books.google.com/books?id=VJqvj7r8YqoC
- DATEM. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DATEM
- Animal-derived Ingredients Resource | Living https://www.peta.org/living/food/animal-ingredients-list/
- IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the “Gold Book”) (1997). Online corrected version: (2006–) “glycerides”
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 420). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Sonntag, Norman O. V. (1982). “Glycerolysis of fats and methyl esters — Status, review, and critique”. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 59 (10): 795A–802A. doi:10.1007/BF02634442. ISSN 0003-021X
- Hoseney, R. C., Hsu, K. H., Ling, R. S. 1976. Use of diacetyl-tartaric acid esters of monoglycerides. Bakers Dig. 59:28.
- Rogers, D. E., Hoseney, R. C. 1983. Breadmaking properties of DATEM. Bakers Digest 57:12.
- Lorenz, K. 1983. Diactyl tartaric acid esters of monoglycerides (DATEM) as emulsifiers in breads and buns. Bakers Digest 57:6.
- Food Additives (Page 733). Alfred Branen – Marcel Dekker – 2002. ISBN: 0-8247-9343-9
- Technology of Biscuits, Crackers, and Cookies, Third Edition (Page 157). Duncan Manley – Woodhead Publishing Limited – 2000. ISBN 1 85573 532 6.