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 is dried and milled to produce a powder that is ready soluable in water or brine.

Commercially, xanthan gum is also it is commonly found in products such as cosmetics shampoos and toothpaste. It was originally used in the oil industry in large quantities to thicken drilling mud. 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 intolerant to it; specifically those already sensitive 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. As a result 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, it is advised by the Food Standards Agency that people with such food intolerances should avoid consuming food containing xanthan gum if the source of the gum is not known.

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 efficent 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. As a result, 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, despite its origins and subsequent widespread use in theFree From Food industry.


Why is Xantham Gum in so Many Free From Foods

.When gluten is removed from grains, the structure is lost as there is no longer any elasticity to bind the grain together. .This means that the likes of cakes and breads which rely on gluten for structure, can no longeer hold their shape and turn into crumbs when sliced. To reintroduce some elasticity, xanthan gum is often used because of its gluey properties. However, there are alternatives which an be used instead which do not taste as bitter and have more nutritional benefits than this controversial food additive.

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 thicker than 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 in Free From supermarket foods than people who do not follow gluten free diets.

Often celiacs are unaware that xanthan gum could be at the root of aggravated health symptoms. 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 can actually be at the root of the sensitivity as its addition to food, especially Free From Food products is becoming more wide spread.. All GFS. recipes are naturally xanthan gum free.

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