Is Cellulose Gum Vegan? Here’s Where It Comes From

Being vegan is becoming increasingly simple in today’s world, but it can be difficult to know which products are and are not safe to consume when following this diet – and obscure ingredients can be even more difficult to identify. This might lead you to wonder, is cellulose gum vegan?

Cellulose gum is vegan. It is derived from plant matter, with no animal products involved in the creation process, so it’s suitable for vegans. It has its uses in a variety of food products because it works as a stabilizer and it can improve the texture of certain products.

You might see cellulose gum on the list of ingredients for quite a few different foods because of its useful properties. Let’s explore what this substance is in more detail.

Is Cellulose Gum Vegan?

chewing gum
Chewing gums contain cellulose gum*

Cellulose gum counts as a vegan product and it is often used in vegan-friendly foods. This is because it is created using plant matter, and no animals are involved in any part of making it. This means that vegans can eat it happily, without any issue.

Cellulose gum is made from the cell walls of plants. Cellulose is one of the most common compounds (or at least organic compounds) found on earth, and it’s a great option for vegan foods. The cellulose is artificially charged to increase its solubility, making it ideal for many kinds of foods.

This gum is useful because of its various properties, and it is usually used to:

  • Stabilize foods and minimize separation of oil and water
  • Prevent foods from losing moisture and turning dry
  • Improve the texture of certain recipes and make them feel better in your mouth
  • Add some flavor to a bland recipe
  • Thicken foods, allowing more air to be whipped into them without the inclusion of additional fat
  • Prevent caking; it may appear on grated cheeses and in spice mixes as the anti-caking agent
  • Supplement the fiber content of certain foods

You can therefore safely use cellulose gum in your food if you’re vegan, making food for vegans, or just trying to produce more planet-friendly meals. It is a great resource that is considered perfectly safe for consumption.

Where Is Cellulose Gum Harvested From?

Cellulose gum comes from plants, but which plants? In general, it is made from wood pulp and the seeds from the cotton plant. It may also be created from a variety of plant fibers, but these are considered the best options economically, so they are the most commonly used. 

You cannot harvest cellulose gum from animals, as they don’t produce cellulose, so you never need to worry about checking the source.

Once the cellulose extracts have been collected from the plants, they are processed using salt and acetic acid (which is used in vinegar). The three ingredients are mixed together and then filtered and dried. This leaves a powder, which is the finished product, cellulose gum. 

What Abbreviations Are Used For Cellulose Gum?

It can be tricky to read a food packet at the best of times, and if manufacturers use abbreviations, it can be even more difficult to work out what’s safe and what isn’t. Acronyms can be impossible to figure out unless you can look them up, so what do manufacturers call cellulose gum?

Sometimes, you’ll see this referred to simply as cellulose gum, but it’s often called carboxymethylcellulose, or CMC for short. You will see this on many kinds of food, as it is used widely in the food industry, so it’s worth familiarizing yourself with these two terms and associating them with cellulose gum.

You may also see cellulose gum referred to as E466, so look out for this use as well. Microcrystalline cellulose and MCC are other, less common forms that it may take.

Is Cellulose Gum Sustainable?

Many people who have chosen to be vegan do so because they are concerned about the state of the planet, and they feel that they can contribute to the solution by not using animal products. However, this can cause issues if the alternatives are more environmentally damaging. Fortunately, this isn’t the case with cellulose gum.

Cellulose gum is considered sustainable and is found in abundance in the natural world. It is harvested responsibly and therefore there are no environmental concerns about using this product in foods. 

How Much Cellulose Gum Is Generally Used?

The amount of gum in foods will vary depending on the recipe, but in general, only a small amount of cellulose gum is needed when cooking. You will usually see it near the end of the ingredients list (which is organized by the quantity of the ingredients). 

What Foods Tend To Contain Cellulose Gum?

cellulose gum in ice creams

Although cellulose gum can appear in almost any kind of food, it is particularly common in baked goods. This is because it helps to retain moisture, so it keeps the baked goods fresh and mouth-watering for longer. Without the gum, many baked goods would turn stale much more quickly, making them unappealing.

Using cellulose gum can contribute to reducing food waste, and it’s one of the reasons that commercial baked goods tend to last better than homemade ones.

You may also see cellulose gum in certain beverages, as it serves as an excellent thickener. It may be used in fruit juices that have reduced calories, because it prevents them from feeling thin and watery, leading to a better experience for the consumer. Other drinks may also contain it if they are thick, such as milkshakes.

Some chilled foods, such as ice cream or vegan alternatives, might contain cellulose gum, because it is excellent at slowing the formation of ice crystals. This makes the food last better and reduces the risk of freezer burn. Again, this can prevent food waste and improve the experience of the consumer.

Is Cellulose Gum Safe?

Cellulose gum is considered safe for human consumption, yes. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes it as a safe additive, and it was reviewed in 1970, when it was agreed that it met the common safety standards. It is now present in thousands of kinds of foods, and is consumed all over the world without any issues.

It has also been evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and confirmed as safe. There is currently no recommended or acceptable daily intake advice, because there are not thought to be any safety concerns with this substance. 

Cellulose gum must be listed in the ingredients of any food that contains it, and you can always check the label to see whether it is present. Remember that it may appear in one of the forms listed above, such as E466, rather than being listed as “cellulose gum.”

How Does Cellulose Gum Prevent Separation?

We have mentioned that this additive serves as an emulsifier, stopping fats from separating from liquids. This is because it suspends the liquids in a solution, rather than letting them move around freely.

This maintains the homogeneity in the food, keeping the oils mixed in. You may have noticed that many commercial products do not separate, while homemade versions do – and this is due to emulsifiers like cellulose gum. Plant milks, for example, may use cellulose gum to keep the fats and the liquids combined.

Keeping the food stable in this way improves the texture. It can be done with drinks, sauces, batters, whipped substances, desserts, and more. It also makes the foods creamier without you needing to add more fats, which can mean that you get a healthier meal.

Is Cellulose Gum Safe For Gluten-Free Vegans?

Being vegan is hard enough, but being a gluten-free vegan can be close to impossible, and many people struggle with this. Fortunately, cellulose gum is gluten-free, and you can safely consume it if you are on a restricted diet.

Indeed, this is a common ingredient in gluten-free products because of the properties that it offers. Many gluten-free foods suffer from being too crumbly, but the elasticity, thickening, and emulsifying properties of cellulose gum mean that it can solve this issue in many cases.

Is Cellulose Gum Good For Your Digestion?

It is thought that this ingredient could also aid your digestive system because it is a significant source of insoluble fiber. This can make certain foods easier to digest, and may help to add bulk and a sense of fullness without increasing the calories or quantity of food eaten. 

Fibrous foods tend to be good for your digestion, and people who suffer from digestive issues are often told to increase their fiber intake – so cellulose gum is a great option for these individuals.

Conclusion

If you are struggling to maintain a vegan diet, cellulose gum is something that you can confidently tick off as being fine for you to consume. The same goes for vegans on a gluten-free diet. This substance is made from plants, salt, and mild acid, and it’s thought to be perfectly safe to consume. It has a myriad of applications in the food industry and is extremely useful.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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