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Xanthan Gum Intolerance

What is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan Gum is a food additive, also known as E415. It derives its name from the strain of bacteria used for the fermentation process 'Xanthomonas.X.Campetris'. It is the same bacteria responsible for causing black rot to form on brocolli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria forms a slimey substance which acts as a natural stabiliser or thickener. The precipitate then is dried and milled to produce a powder that is ready soluable in water or brine.

Commercially xanthan gum is commonly found in products such as cosmetics, shampoos and toothpaste. It is used in the oil industry in large quantities to thicken drilling mud. Due to its gluey consistency It is also sometimes added to concrete when poured under water.

It was approved for use in foods in 1968 and is used as a thickening agent in salad dressings, sauces and ice creams. It is also used to thicken egg substitutes made from egg whites by helping to replace the fat and emulsifiers found in yolks.
However, most commonly it is now used by Gluten Free food manufacturers as a substitute for gluten.

1  Xanthan-Gum powder

Although approved for use in food, some people can be sensitive to it; specifically those already intolerant to corn, soy or wheat. Xanthomonas Campestris bacterium is not derived directly from corn or wheat but is produced by fermentation by the bacteriam which can use wheat or other foods as a growing medium. Consequently, residual wheat gluten has been detected in xanthan gum derived from wheat which could trigger an allergic response to celiacs who are highly sensitive to gluten. As such, the advice of the the Food Standards Agency is that people with such food intolerances should avoid consuming food containing xanthan gum if the source of the gum is not known. This makes sense and would be an easy practice to follow if food labelling stated the source of xanthan gum, but it does not appear to do so.

Some consider this to be a separate food allergy ie a direct intolerance to xanthan gum with similar symptoms to gluten intolerance. As Xanthan Gum is also a highly effiicient laxative, it can also cause symptoms of intestinal bloating and diarrhea.
In the USA, evidence has been found of workers exposed to xanthan gum and respiritory problems. In 2011 the FDA warned for it not to be given to premature infants.

Xanthan Gum and UK Allergen Food Labelling Law

As xanthan gum is not made or derived 'directly' from wheat, but is made from micro organisms which can be fed on wheat or other substrates, it is not considered to be derived from these allergenic substrates. This means that for the purposes of food labelling, it is not necessary to label xanthan gum as being derived from an allergen, This is despite the fact that tiny traces of wheat allegen have been detected in it,


Gluten Free Solutions and Xanthan Gum


*Unlike most other manufacturers. we do not use xanthan gum in our ingredients. Not only does it have zero nutritional value, it can also add a bitter taste to the recipe and for some people can also be difficult to digest. This is not surprising when just one teaspoon of gum in a glass of water will turn the liquid instantly into a gluey elastic mixture not dissimilar to wall paper paste; which we then have to digest when added to food.

Co-inciding with the recent 89% growth of the 'free from' food industry and £238 million in UK sales in 2011,an increasing number of people, particularly celiacs, are reporting a sensitivity to xanthan gum, as they are more exposed to it than people who do not follow gluten free diets.

Often celiacs are unaware that xanthan gum could be at the root of an aggravated poor digestion, due to the similarity of some of the symptoms, The complaint can easily be attributed to either eating gluten contaminated food or even to lactose Intolerance. Xanthan Gum could be at the root of the sensitivity because the range of Free From food products containing it. is becoming more widespread. All GFS recipes are xanthan gum free.

If you have anything to add to this topic, please feel free do do so on our forum page.*