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What Does Your Chewing Gum Contain?

Chewing gum with mint taste, isolated on white

Chewing gum with mint taste, isolated on white

Chewing gums are very popular in western countries like USA, Canada and the UK. It is also becoming very popular in developing countries like India, particularly amongst the student community. In fact, India, with its open market economy and upwardly mobile middle class, is embracing much of the western culture, including dietary preferences. The global market for chewing gum is currently valued at a staggering USD 30 billion!1

Types of Chewing Gum

Chewing gums come in various shapes & sizes, colors, tastes & flavors and of a variety of brand names. These include the following:

  • Mint flavored chewing gumsg. Wrigley’s Spearmint, Wrigley’s Doublemint; Eclipse Mints; Extra Mints etc.
  • Fruit flavored chewing gumsg. Juicy Fruit
  • Teeth-whitening chewing gumsg. Orbit White
  • Bubble gumsg. Hubba Bubba, Super Bazooka etc.

There are also various categories of chewing gum available nowadays that cater to various consumer needs. While the standard type is sweetened with sugar, the health-conscious opt for chewing gums made of artificial sweeteners. A special type of chewing gum is also available for smokers who are looking to quit smoking. This type of chewing gum is impregnated with nicotine. Some of these special types of chewing gums are given in Table 1.2

Table 1: Special Types of Chewing Gum

Function of Chewing Gum Active Ingredient Brand Name & Availability
Analgesic Aspirin Aspergum, North America
Increase of attentiveness Caffeine Stay alert, USA
Antacid Calcium carbonate Chooz, USA
Prevention of dental caries Chlorhexidine Hexit, USA
Xylitol V6, UK
Smoking cessation Nicotine Nicorette, India & various other countries
Nutrition Vitamin C Endekay Vitamin C, UK

Composition of Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is composed of Gum Base, Softeners, Sweeteners and Flavors. These are briefly discussed below.

Gum Base: Chewing gum used to be made from latex sap of the sapodilla tree, which was originally native to Central America. The sap was called chicle and formed the gum base. Other substances that were also used as gum base included beeswax and paraffin wax. However, nowadays, synthetic rubber such as polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate or a mixture of artificial and natural bases are used as the gum base. It is the gum base that makes the chewing gum “chewable”.3

Softeners: These are added to retain moisture and help prevent the gum from becoming hard. Common examples of softeners include glycerin or vegetable oil.

Sweeteners: These are added to gum to give it a sweet flavor. Usually, sugar or corn syrup is used as natural sweetening agents. There are a number of artificial sweeteners, but the most commonly used are xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol and aspartame.

Flavors: The flavor component of chewing gum provides long lasting, high intensity and high quality flavor. These flavouring ingredients are usually added last during the manufacture of chewing gums. The most common flavors include mint spearmint, menthol and fruit flavors.4

Lanolin – A Controversial Ingredient in Chewing Gum

Lanolin, from the Latin lāna (wool) and oleum (oil), literally means wool wax, is a yellow waxy substance secreted from the skin glands of wool-bearing animals such as sheep. Lanolin is an ingredient of chewing gum and forms a component of the gum base, and thus not declared explicitly by the manufacturers. Since this is commonly used in skincare products, using it as an ingredient of chewing gum is not only unhealthy, but also unethical and therefore highly controversial. Moreover, sheep sprayed with insecticides could lead to these toxic chemicals eventually entering the human body, and thereby causing adverse health consequences. Scientists are of the opinion that these insecticides could even enter breast milk and thereby transferred to babies of young mothers.5, 6

What Does the Codex Alimentarius Say?     

The Codex Alimentarius has prescribed maximal limits for various types of Food Additives in chewing gum. These are briefly tabulated in Table 2.7

Table 2: Maximum Levels of Various Food Additives in Chewing Gum as per Codex Alimentarius guidelines

Food Additive Maximum Level
Caramel Color, Class III 20000 mg/kg
Caramel Color, Class IV 20000 mg/kg
Fast Green FCF 300 mg/kg
Guaiac Resin 1500 mg/kg
Polydimethylsiloxane 100 mg/kg
Polyvinylpyrrolidone 10000 mg/kg
Stearyl Citrate 15000 mg/kg

 What Does the FSSAI Say? 8

FSSAI, the apex regulatory agency on food in India, has clearly stipulated that Chewing Gum or Bubble Gum should be prepared from chewing gum base or bubble gum base, natural or synthetic, non-toxic; cane sugar and corn syrup. As per the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011 (FSSR), there are 14 sources of gum base, including 8 natural sources such as natural rubber latex, natural resin, agar (food grade) etc.; and 6 synthetic sources such as synthetic rubber latex, synthetic resin, polyvinyl acetate etc.

The gum base can also contain milk powder, malt, chocolate, coffee, gelatin (food grade), permitted emulsifiers, purified water as well as nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals.

The FSSR also specifies that the product must be free from dirt, filth, adulterants as well as harmful substances. The FSSR additionally recommends that the product must conform to the standards, as stipulated in Table 3.

Table 3: Chemical Composition of Chewing Gum/Bubble Gum

Ingredients Chewing Gum Bubble Gum
Gum Not less than 12.5% by weight Not less than 14% by weight
Moisture Not more than 3.5% by weight Not more than 3.5% by weight
Sulfated ash Not more than 9.5% by weight Not more than 11.5% by weight
Acid insoluble ash Not more than 2.0% by weight Not more than 3.5% by weight
Reducing sugars Not less than 4.5% by weight Not less than 5.5% by weight
Sucrose Not more than 70% by weight Not more than 60% by weight

As already discussed, since artificial sweeteners can also be used in chewing gum/bubble gum, the FSSR has recommended maximum limit for these additives too. These are listed below:

  • Saccharin sodium – 3000 ppm
  • Aspartame (methyl ester) -10000 ppm
  • Acesulfame potassium – 5000 ppm
  • Sucralose – 1250 ppm

Antioxidants

These can also be added to chewing gum/bubble gum. Here also, the FSSR has fixed the maximum limits. For example, the maximum limit for the antioxidants Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is 250 ppm, while forTocopherol, it is 1500 ppm.

Preservatives

These include Benzoic acid and Sodium/Potassium benzoate, which can be present at a maximum limit of 1500 ppm. Other preservatives, such as Sulfur dioxide can be present at2000 ppm max., while Sorbic acid and its Calcium, Sodium and Potassium salts (calculated as sorbic acid) can be present at 1500 ppm max. Class I Preservatives as listed under Regulation 3.1.4 should be present as per GMP. 

Polyols

These can be present singly or in combination, and include Sorbitol, Manitol, Xylitol, Isomalt,Lactitol and Maltitol should be present as per GMP.

Colors

These can be used singly or in combination within the specified limits but within the same class, i.e. either natural or synthetic.

Natural Colors: These can be present singly or in combination, and include Chlorophyll,Caramel, Curcumin or Turmeric, β-carotene, β apo-8 carotenal, Methyl/Ethyl ester of β apo-8 carotenin acid, Canthaxanthin, Riboflavin/Lactoflavin, Annato and Saffron, which should be present as per GMP.

Synthetic Colors and Inorganic Coloring Matter: These can be present singly or in combination. These include Erythrosine, Carmoisine, Ponceau 4R, Fast Green FCF, Indigo carmine, Brilliant Blue FCF, Sunset Yellow FCF and Tartrazine, which should be present at a maximum limit of 100 ppm. Titanium dioxide should be present at a 10000 ppm max.

Flavors

These can be added singly or in combination. These include Natural flavor/Natural flavoring substances/Nature identical flavoring substances/Artificial flavoring substances, Vanillinand Ethyl vanillin, which should be present as per GMP.

Emulsifiers

These can be added singly or in combination. The only approved emulsifier for use in chewing gum/bubble gum is mono- and di-glycerides of edible fatty acids and should be present as per the regulation.

Alkalizing Agents

These can also be used singly or in combination and include Sodium, Potassium, Calcium,Magnesium and Ammonium carbonates. Of these, Calcium carbonate and Magnesium carbonate should be present as per GMP.

Neutralizing Agents/Acidulants

These include Phosphoric acid at 22000 ppm max as P2O5 and L-Tartaric acid at 3000 ppmmax. Besides these, Citric acid, Malic acid, L-ascorbic acid and Lecithin should be present as per GMP.

Lubricants

These include Talc and Mineral oil at 0.2%; Icing sugar, Glycerin, Paraffin wax or liquid paraffin (food grade) and Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium salts of Stearic acid (food grade) as per GMP. 

Miscellaneous

The only item under this category is Phosphated starch, which should be present as per GMP.

References

  1. Sugar-free Chewing Gum Drives Sales in the Global Gum Market. Market Optimizer. January 28, 2014. Available at http://www.marketoptimizer.org/industry-insights/sugar-free-chewing-gum-drives-sales-in-the-global-gum-market Accessed on December 16, 2015.
  2. Adapted from the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Investigation. Available athttp://www.jpionline.org/articles/2011/1/3/images/PharmInvestigations_2011_1_3_131_85961_t1.jpgAccessed on December 16, 2015.
  3. Helmenstine AM. What is in Chewing Gum? About Education/Chemistry. Available athttp://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistryfaqs/f/chewinggum.htm Accessed on December 14, 2015.
  4. Chewing Gum Facts: Chewing Gum Ingredients. Available athttp://www.chewinggumfacts.com/making-chewing-gum/chewing-gum-ingredients/Accessed on December 14, 2015.
  5. Cohen J. 6 Disgusting Things You’re Eating (And You Don’t Even Know It!). Forbes/Opinion. April 3, 2012. Available athttp://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2012/04/03/6-disgusting-things-youre-eating-and-you-dont-even-know-it/ Accessed on December 14, 2015.
  6. Sheep Wool Chewing Gum. Available at http://www.godforsakenfoodfacts.com/sheep-gum.php Accessed on December 14, 2015.
  7. Codex Alimentarius Commission. Report of the 31st Session of the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, The Hague, The Netherlands, March 22 – 26, 1999. Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. Codex Alimentarius Commission 23rdSession, Rome, Italy, June 28 – July 3, 1999.
  8. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India. Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011, dated August 1, 2011. Available athttp://www.fssai.gov.in/Portals/0/Pdf/Food_safety_and_standards_Food_product_standards_and_Food_Additives_regulation_2011_English.pdfAccessed on December 17, 2015.

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