Xanthan gum is made from glucose extracted from grains such as corn, soy, or wheat, and sometimes from lactose (a sugar extracted from milk). Sugarcane and sugar beet can also be used as a source of glucose in products.
The xanthan gum used in foods is a fine, grayish-white powder that dissolves quickly in hot or cold water. It is commonly used in condiments such as salad dressings and sauces, jams, and fruit fillings to increase viscosity and to help stabilize the product and prevent ingredients, such as oil, from separating from the mixture. It is also used in ice cream to keep the texture smooth and prevent ice crystals from forming. Xanthan gum can be used as a substitute for gluten because it helps to make the gluten-free dough sticky.
In fact, the concentration of xanthan gum used rarely exceeds 0.05% of the food. Xanthan gum manufacturers often mix xanthan gum with other gums, such as locust bean gum and guar gum, to enhance the effect.
Xanthan gum is made by fermentation of carbohydrates (sugars). Xanthomonas canola feeds on carbohydrates and metabolizes sugars into liquid solutions. The solution is mixed with alcohol (ethanol or isopropanol) to separate the gum from the water. The gum is then rinsed, dried, and ground.
The carbohydrates used to make xanthan gum can be extracted from sucrose, lactose (dairy products), corn, or wheat. In the United States, stabilizer xanthan gum is usually extracted from corn, which is a cheap, subsidized crop. However, because corn is typically a GM crop, other types of carbohydrates are used in the United States to produce non-GM xanthan gum. In South America, sucrose is often used because of the low price of sugar, while in Europe, the common sweetener is wheat.
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