By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
The VRG noticed “gellan gum” listed on the ingredient statements of several popular non-dairy beverages including Tree of Life®, Silk® and Pacific® products.
We asked KeHE® the parent company of Tree of Life® about its Vanilla Almond Beverage. We received a call back from a KeHE® customer service representative (KeHE® is the parent company) in August 2013 that the gellan gum in their almond beverage “…is not made of animal products…gellan gum is made from a bacterial culture [and] used as a thickening agent…It is a non-GMO product.” The ingredient statement can be seen here: http://www.iherb.com/Tree-of-Life-Unsweetened-Vanilla-Almond-Beverage-32-fl-oz-946-ml/42622
Silk® lists gellan gum as an ingredient in its almondmilks. A Silk® customer service representative told us on the phone in August 2013 that their almondmilk products are often described as “vegan.” The website states that their almondmilks are “free of dairy, soy, lactose, gluten, casein, egg and MSG.” http://silk.com/products/vanilla-almondmilk#
Pacific® states on its website FAQ page that “Gellan gum is an all-natural ingredient approved for use in organic products. It is obtained through a natural fermentation process. It acts as a thickening agent and will bind water. We add it to our beverages to keep water from separating out and forming a layer on top of the beverage.” Pacific® offers several non-dairy beverages containing gellan gum: http://www.pacificfoods.com/food/non-dairy-beverages/nut-grain-beverages/all-natural-hazelnut-original.aspx. The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program under the recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board added gellan gum (high-acyl form only) in 2010 to its National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances approved for use in organic foods and beverages: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2010-12-13/pdf/2010-31196.pdf. This means that gellan gum can be an ingredient in a USDA Organic- or USDA Made with Organic Ingredients-labeled food or beverage product even if the gellan gum is not USDA-certified organic. Its listing is located in section § 205.605 Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” of the following document: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=6f623e1de5457587ccdfec12bc34ed1c&rgn=div5&view=text&node=7:188.8.131.52.32&idno=7.
The VRG contacted CP Kelco the leading manufacturer of gellan gum for more information about its manufacturing process. We were told on the phone by a customer service specialist that gellan gum “…is produced by bacterial fermentation…on corn syrup…it is a non-GMO product.” A statement provided to us by CP Kelco reads in part:
CP Kelco’s…gellan gum…[is] not considered “bioengineered food” as defined by the United States Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule governing such foods.
CP Kelco’s…gellan gum [is] produced by fermentation. CP Kelco’s products offermentation are produced using bacteria that have not been genetically modified as defined in EU Directive 2001/18. No raw materials produced from or by GMO have been used for standardizing the ready-to sell product.
A product information sheet provided to The VRG by CP Kelco describes gellan gum as “suitable” for those on vegetarian or vegan diets. Food grade and personal care gellan gum products manufactured by this company are certified kosher and halal.
Here is more on gellan gum from the CP Kelco website: http://www.cpkelco.com/products-gellan-gum.html
Source: Biofermentation using a sugar source
Function: Gelling, texturizing, stabilizing, suspending, film-forming
Description: Gellan gum is a polysaccharide produced by fermentation of
a pure culture of Sphingomonas elodea. The composition and structure of
native gellan gum produced by commercial fermentation is identical to
the naturally occurring polysaccharide formed by Sphingomonas elodea on
plants of Lily pad varieties.
The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including the Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements. Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.