'Gums' in food bear watching

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 8 (UPI) -- Deciphering what the "gums" on food labels are can be difficult, but a U.S. food expert says it's important for those with food allergies.

Phil Lempert, food industry analyst, trend-watcher and creator of the Web site, said xanthan gum was developed in the United States in the 1960s from the slimy result of the fermentation that takes place when a type of bacteria -- which causes black rot on vegetables -- is mixed with corn sugar.


"Anyone with corn allergies should be vigilant about their reaction to this gum and some people are specifically allergic to it," Lempert said on

"It's very popular in food production -- especially salad dressings and ice cream -- and it is common in gluten-free recipes."

Agar or kanten is derived from red algae or seaweed and is used as an ingredient in desserts such as jellies, custards and puddings throughout Asia, Lempert said.

Arrowroot is a thickener derived from a perennial herb found in rainforests and it jells with the addition of water when cooked. Two teaspoons of arrowroot -- which is gluten free -- can be substituted for one tablespoon of cornstarch.

Guar gum is derived from guar beans, a legume, and it is used in baked goods, dairy products, yogurt, dressings, barbecue sauces and other condiments. However, beans are hard to digest and anyone with a food allergy-compromised digestive system should pay attention to determine if guar gum is a friend or foe, Lempert said.

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