Gellan Gum in Many Non-Dairy Beverages Is All-Vegetable
By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
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 researched this ingredient. 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 in August 2013 who said 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 almond milks. A Silk® customer service representative told us on the phone in August 2013, that their almond milk products are often described as 'vegan.' The website states that their almond milks are "free of dairy, soy, lactose, gluten, casein, egg and MSG." See: 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. See: 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. See: 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 of fermentation 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.
An information sheet provided to The Vegetarian Resource Group 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: www.cpkelco.com/products-gellan-gum.html.
Source: Biofermentation using a sugar source
Function: Gelling, texturizing, stabilizing, suspending, film-forming and structuring
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.
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 judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.
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