Can Gum Go Bad?

This brief article answers the question, “Can Gum Go Bad?” with an in-depth analysis of chewing gum, factors affecting the shelf life, ingredients used to make chewing gum, and risk factors if you swallow it. 

Can Gum Go Bad?

No gum does not go bad and it does not expire. As far as gum goes it has nothing that can perish. It is usually made from synthetic materials instead of natural ones. Because it is not meant to be digested or dissolved in your mouth

In 2015, the sales value of the global chewing gum market was estimated to be 25.8 billion in U.S. dollars. A recent national consumer survey revealed that around 56% of U.S. households consume chewing gums with an annual consumption rate of 160 to 180 sticks per person (1).

The Expiry Date of Gum

Also to get the richer flavor the flavorings used are mostly unnatural. Sometimes some specific gums use natural flavorings but they specifically mention it according to the International Chewing Gum Association (ICGA).

Gum does have some moisture that dries out over time. In general, the gum is very stable and none of the ingredients react vigorously with other substances. Also overall it is a safe item to eat according to the ICGA.

Most governments allow companies to produce gum without the expiration dates printed on the packet.

Is There Any Reason For Gum To Go Bad?

Well yes, gum can go bad due to exposure to moisture through air or direct contact. But other than that gum is invincible. Also after the years the texture can change and the flavor may be lost but it’s still edible.

A major challenge in the production of chewing gum is its shelf life, storage conditions and effect of some ingredients that impress stability. Water content can lead to growth of microorganisms and chemical degradation. Emulsifiers and anticaking agents are added to the formulation in order to improve the shelf life of chewing gums. Packaging materials are used to avoid moisture and flavor losses during storage (4).

So the next time you chew a piece of gum just think this bubble-making goodness could theoretically live longer than you. The next time you find a piece of gum you theoretically can eat it. Just make sure it smells and tastes fine.

What Is Chewing Gum Made Of?

Traditionally, the primary phase or the tasteless masticatory gum is an inert and insoluble non nutritive material that can be obtained from natural rubbers or synthetic elastomers. Natural rubbers may include natural latex such as Jelutong, Lechi Caspi, Perillo, and Chicle. Sapodilla tree is one of the major sources to obtain natural chicle gum. Chicle gum is made of polyterpenes that are composed of thousands of C5H8 isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) subunits. It was the chief ingredient for making chewing gums. To this day, chicle is extracted from the sap of the sapodilla tree trunk and used in several commercial chewing gums (1).

Have you ever thought about what’s inside of chewing gum that makes it so chewable? Well, before World War II, chewing gum was made of something called “chicle”. Which came from trees which are native to Central America.

And essentially, chicle is a latex sap, But you can’t get a lot of chicle from those trees. If you tap a chicle tree for 24 hours, it only yields about two and a half pounds of chicle. Which would get you only a few hundred sticks of chewing gum. So not the best kind of ingredient to use for the long haul.

History of gum

By World War II, Americans were chewing gum like crazy, all over the place. But then after the war, these chemists got together and thought of a chicle substitute. And so they came up with another kind of synthetic rubber analogous to chicle.

And so today chewing gum is made from these synthetic rubber compounds combined with things like sugar and natural and artificial flavorings. So to answer the question of what makes chewing gum so chewable, it’s rubber.

We’re just chewing on rubber, flavored like watermelons, or grapes, or candied apples. As time progressed so was the fascination for gums. And many other cultures made gum-like substances obtained from plants, grasses and resins.

But it was not until the 1860s when the first flavored chewing gum was finally invented using synthetic rubber. Apart from gum base, these modern-day gums contain the following ingredients:


Ingredients such as sweeteners, softeners, and flavoring are what we enjoy until the taste is gone and we spit it out. But the critical question is what if you swallow it by mistake.

Generally, chewing gums are made by combining two phases: (1) a continuous water-soluble phase that contains non masticatory ingredients, such as an active pharmaceutical ingredient, plasticizers, flavors, and sweetening agents; and (2) an insoluble discontinuous phase (tasteless masticatory gum base), which mainly contains the gum base as the fundamental material that is required in any formulation to provide the chewing gums their rubbery-like structure. Gum base is also used to carry sweeteners, flavors, and any other substance in chewing gums. It is usually present in an amount from 5 to 60%, by weight of the final chewing gum (1).

Well first here is something you need to understand about your digestion process.

Digestion of Non-Dissolvable Substances

Digestion of food in the human digestive system is a complex combination of versatile and multiple-scale physicochemical processes that steer the food intake, disintegration to suitable forms, absorption of the basic units, transportation to related organs, and purging the remaining waste. The human digestive system consists of the digestive tract and the accessory organs controlled by the neural network and the hormones. The digestive tract can be described as an open-ended tube with a total length of about 8–9 m, extending from mouth to anus, consisting of the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestine. Accessory organs are the teeth, tongue, salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. Each part of the digestive tract has a specific function, where altogether, they perform the extraction of the digested products and the disposal of wastes (2).

When you eat something it goes through a systematic process. Starting from chewing it, where the food mixes with the saliva. And once you swallow this mixture your body breaks it down further.

Extract all the nutrients on the way before it lands inside your stomach. Where a powerful stomach acid transforms it into a mush that allows the food to pass through the rest of the digestive tract smoothly.

What Happens When You Swallow Gum?

But when it comes to gums it’s a whole different bubble game. Because no matter how super powerful your stomach acid is, it is no match to the strength the synthetic rubber possesses.

Despite the best efforts from your saliva, enzymes, and stomach acid to digest the gum, they won’t be able to break it apart and dissolve it. But don’t worry it won’t stick to the side of your intestine and stay there.

Your body will treat it like any other local food it can’t fully digest. So within the next three days or so your digestive tract will push it through your system and will throw it out along with feces.  After a few hours in the stomach, plus three to six hours in the small intestine, and about sixteen hours in the large intestine, the digestion process enters step four, which is the elimination of indigestible food as feces. All indigestible food, such as fibers and other non-nutrients is eliminated as feces (3).

Although swallowing a single gum by mistake won’t harm you. Still consuming too many gums can cause a blockage in your digestive tract that might need immediate medical attention or even an operation to remove it.

So always make sure to spit out the tasteless piece of synthetic rubber once it loses its sweet flavor.


This brief article answered the question, “Can Gum Go Bad?” with an in-depth analysis of chewing gum, factors affecting the shelf life, ingredients used to make chewing gum, and risk factors if you swallow it. 


  1. Thivya, Perumal, Manoharan Durgadevi, and Vadakkepulppara Ramachandran Nair Sinija. Biodegradable medicated chewing gum: A modernized system for delivering bioactive compounds. Future Foods, 2021, 4, 100054.
  2. Sensoy I. A review on the food digestion in the digestive tract and the used in vitro models. Curr Res Food Sci. 2021, 4, 308-319. 
  3. Klees, L. Digestion and Absorption. Nutrition Applications for a Healthy Lifestyle.
  4. Aslani, Abolfazl, and Farnaz Rostami. Medicated chewing gum, a novel drug delivery system. J res med sci offic j Isfahan Univ Med Sci, 2015, 20, 403.