Enzymes are used by the food industry for a variety of purposes to help process food more quickly and make it more digestible. Enzymes can be natural or man-made and are usually considered a food additive.
For hundreds of years, enzymes have been used in the processing of some foods. Cheese, bread and wine are three staples that would not be the same without the catalyzing action of certain enzymes. Rennet is a protease enzyme found in the stomachs of domestic livestock that is used to separate milk into curds and whey. Curds are the basis of cheese, compressed together into blocks or rounds and allowed to cure for several weeks.
Food manufacturers now use dozens of different enzymes to process food, ferment it, make it easier to digest or break by-products down for disposal. Enzyme proteins are so effective that a small amount are capable of dramatically speeding up food production. For instance, a small packet of rennet can separate a vat of milk within hours, while it would take days for milk to separate naturally.
There are a number of areas where enzymes are used by manufacturers. These proteins can be found in baking, oil and fat processing, brewing of alcohols, dairy processing and meat and fish production.