Is e 415 vegan?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is e 415 vegan?” and will discuss what E415 is and how it is produced.

Is e 415 vegan?

Maybe, e415 is vegan. E415 is also known as Xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a high-fiber carbohydrate that may be extracted by fermenting sugars. It can be made in a variety of ways. Because it is made from the fermentation of corn, soy, or wheat, xanthan gum is usually vegan.  Non-vegan materials, such as whey and egg whites, can also be used to make xanthan gum. Xanthan gum obtained from animal sources is not vegan.

The demand and production of xanthan gum from X. campestris has progressively increased, at an annual rate of 5–10%. It is estimated that 30000 t of this gum is produced per year. The major producers of xanthan gum in the US are Merck, and Pfizer. In France, the major producers of xanthan gum are Rhone Poulenc, Mero-Rousselot-Santia, and Sanofi-Elf. In China, the major producer of xanthan gum is Saidy Chemical, and in Austria it is Jungbunzlauer (1).

Xanthan Gum: What Is It and How Is It Made?

Xanthan gum is a polymeric carbohydrate, an extracellular heteropolysaccharide, which means it’s a macromolecule made up of carbohydrate subunits that repeat (that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms). Gum is made from the fermentation of simple sugars such as glucose and sucrose. Xanthan gets its name from the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris, Xanthomonas pelargonii, Xanthomonas phaseoli and Xanthomonas malvacearum during aerobic fermentation, which is utilized in the procedure. The microbial production of xanthan gum at an industrial scale is a non-continuous process (1). The same bacteria causes “black rot” on broccoli and other similar veggies, so don’t be put off by this! 

The production of xanthan gum at an industrial scale is carried out mainly in a submerged fermentation system by monitoring several process variables, such as Xanthomonas strain, carbon and nitrogen sources, batch or fed-batch process, pH, temperature, inoculum size, airflow rate, agitation, and duration of fermentation (1).

The bacteria are added to sugar (s) solution, along with some nitrogen, trace elements, and dipotassium phosphate, to make the gum (an inorganic compound produced in the lab). The solid polymer is recovered from the solution after a few days, dried, and milled into a powder that can be used as a food additive or indifferent industrial processes (for example in the oil industry for thickening drilling mud).

Xanthan gum was discovered by US chemist Allene Rosalind Jeanes and her team at the US Department of Agriculture in 1968, and it was approved for use in foods in 1968. It was then recognized as a food additive with the E number E415. This gum was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for application as food additives (stabilizer and emulsifier) without any restrictions. It is estimated that 30000 t of this gum is produced per year (1).

What’s keeping certain xanthan gum from being vegan?

Xanthan gum is made from the fermentation of carbohydrates in the form of sugars, as previously stated. These sugars can come from a variety of places, and this is where animal-derived products could enter the picture. Although xanthan gum does not contain any animal components, it is possible that the sugars utilized in its manufacture came from animal products.

Recent studies have focused on the use of industrial residues as low-cost natural alternatives to serve as substrates in the production of xanthan gum. Different sources were evaluated for this purpose: sugar beet pulp, olive mill wastewaters, agricultural wastes, acid hydrolysates, sugarcane molasses and cheese whey (1).  

Whey, a by-product of cheese production, is one such substance that can be used to obtain the carbs required for xanthan gum manufacture. This isn’t the most common source of carbohydrates for the process, but it’s plentiful and inexpensive (because it’s practically a waste product), which is why it’s found in so many other foods, rendering them non-vegan.

Of course, xanthan gum makers have a variety of plant-based carbohydrate choices. Sugar cane, corn starch, sugar beet, soy, and a variety of other plants are examples.

Another reason xanthan gum isn’t vegan is that the enzymes used to purify it may have been derived from animals. It is claimed in the patent for the technique of purifying xanthan gum using an alkaline protease and lysozyme that “lysozymes of chickens, ducks, quails, turkeys, and geese” (among other animals) may be employed, while plant lysozymes may also be utilized.

Xanthan gum exhibits has widely been used as an additive in various industrial and biomedical applications such as food and food packaging, cosmetics, water-based paints, toiletries, petroleum, oil-recovery, construction and building materials, and drug delivery. Recently, it has shown great potential in tissue engineering applications and a variety of modification methods have been employed to modify xanthan gum as polysaccharide for this purpose. However, for in vivo applications xanthan gum purification protocol includes several steps (adsorption, enzymolysis, filtration, and precipitation) in order to achieve a high degree of purity. One enzyme used for the purification step is lysozyme (2). This enzyme may be obtained from many animal sources, but the most common one is by its direct crystallization from egg white with sodium chloride (3).

However, for food applications, xanthan gum does not need purification using lysozyme. For some food applications, xanthan gum will need other modifications, which can be done by enzymatic processes, where cellulases, xanthanases and other microbial enzymes are applied, rather than animal enzymes (4).

How Can You Tell If Xanthan Gum Is Vegan?

Selecting products identified as suitable for vegans is the simplest approach to determine whether a certain product contains vegan-friendly xanthan gum. In these circumstances, all of the ingredients will be vegan-friendly (at least in theory!).

It’s possible that a product hasn’t been clearly labeled as vegan friendly on the container, but it’s still fine. If there are no additional ingredients that may prevent something from being vegan save for xanthan gum, chances are it will be suitable for plant-based eaters. It’s simply that the product’s creator hasn’t made a point of the vegan credentials (for whatever reason).

Many products are not labeled as a vegan since they are manufactured in facilities that may also handle dairy or other animal products. Many vegans will consider the danger of cross-contact or contamination to be a risk they are willing to take (though people with dairy or other allergies should take more notice).

If this is not the case, and there is nothing else that could be preventing a product from being labeled vegan besides the xanthan gum, the best course of action is to contact the manufacturer and ask what components were used to culture and/or purify it. If by-products from cheese production (whey) were employed in the production or chicken lysosomes were used in the purification, the resulting xanthan gum would not be vegan. It will be acceptable if only plant-derived sugars and lysozymes are employed.

Contacting a product’s producer when you’re in the middle of your weekly shop or eating at a friend’s house isn’t always practical. However, in most circumstances, there should be a vegan-friendly alternative to anything you’re looking to buy.

Is Xanthan Gum Safe to Consume?

Xanthan gum appears to be safe to consume based on the existing data. According to a 2017 research published by the European Food Safety Authority, “no harmful effects were detected at the highest levels studied” in chronic or carcinogenicity trials, and “there is no concern regarding genotoxicity.” (5).

The acute toxicity of xanthan gum was evaluated orally in animal studies. There was no noticeable toxicity remarked in those studies for xanthan gum concentrations up to 20 g/kg body weight. The digestibility and caloric availability tests indicated that xanthan was non-digestible in humans and improved passage of food through the upper gastrointestinal trace. The dermal irritation and sensitization potentials of xanthan gum were assayed in animal studies. Xanthan gum, up to 1%, was not irritating to rabbit skin. Safety evaluation of xanthan gum by long-term feeding studies (xanthan gum in the diet at dosage levels of 0, 0.25, 0.50, and 1 g/kg body weight/day for 2-year studies on albino rats and at dosage levels of 0, 0.25, 0.37, and 1 g/kg body weight /day for 2-year studies on beagle dogs) showed no significant differences in the developmental parameters between test and controls (1).

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is e 415 vegan?” and discussed what E415 is and how it is produced.

References

  1. Habibi, Hossein, and Kianoush Khosravi-Darani. Effective variables on production and structure of xanthan gum and its food applications: A review. Biocatal Agri Biotechnol, 2017, 10, 130-140.
  2. Petri, Denise FS. Xanthan gum: A versatile biopolymer for biomedical and technological applications. J Appl Polym Sci, 2015, 132.
  3. Leśnierowski, Grzegorz, and Tianyu Yang. Lysozyme and its modified forms: A critical appraisal of selected properties and potential. Trend Food Sci Technol, 2021, 107, 333-342.
  4. Riaz, Tahreem, et al. A review of the enzymatic, physical, and chemical modification techniques of xanthan gum. Int J Biol Macromol, 2021, 186, 472-489.
  5. Alicja Mortensen, et al. Re-evaluation of xanthan gum (E 415) as a food additive. EFSA J, 2017, 15, e04909.