I use xanthan gum when making baked goods from scratch. Guar gum is a no-go since it’s one of my reactive foods, and other alternatives either are not readily available or are harder to work with from what I’ve read. Xanthan gum has become one of my staple items to have on hand for gluten-free baking. I’ve been gluten-free or at least trying to be for over three and a half years now, and I’ve never noticed a problem with xanthan gum until recently.
As I was starting to get back into baking slowly earlier this year, I had problems with recipes containing xanthan gum. There were other ingredients I had used in recipes that were contaminated, so I was still unsure that the xanthan gum was a problem. Rather than continue to mess with it, I decided to throw out what I had just in case and buy a new package. What’s readily available for me locally is Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum. I bought a new bag, washed it down with soap and water, dried it off, opened it with a clean pair of scissors, and poured the contents into a washed and dried container. When I was off from work one day, I decided to make a single batch of pancakes for lunch. I used the new xanthan gum and was very careful as I was preparing the pancakes. I was attentive and aware, and I couldn’t recall anything that I had done that would have invited any cross-contamination. However, I believe I had a reaction to the pancakes. I was fine earlier that day. There were other times too when I had symptoms after eating something that had xanthan gum in it, and at least one of those times as well, I could not think of anything else that could have possibly caused issues due to my care in making sure no cross-contamination happened.
Xanthan gum is made from a strain of bacteria, and the bacteria are fed a carbohydrate source to allow them to grow. The source can be a variety of things, including wheat. Wheat is what’s used for Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum. Despite manufacturers saying that no traces of allergens exist in the final product, I’ve seen accounts online where those with corn or wheat allergies had reactions to xanthan gum due to the growth medium used. Wikipedia even mentions in its article on xanthan gum that residual wheat gluten has been detected in xanthan gum where wheat is used as the growth medium. With this in mind, I went online to look for an alternative product and found one that the manufacturer states is made from corn. I ordered a package of it and found someone who could use the xanthan gum I already had. It was practically a new bag, and I didn’t want to throw it out. I then decided how to handle other products I had that contained xanthan gum. I contacted manufacturers of several of the products I had. I found out that Glutino, Udi’s, Katz, and Food for Life use xanthan gum that is derived from corn. I decided to continue using their products until I ran out, when I would search for alternatives that don’t contain xanthan gum at all. The suppliers for this ingredient can change at any time, and manufacturers aren’t required to disclose its source on labels. At any time, I could purchase one of these products and it contain wheat-derived xanthan gum. I don’t want to have to keep up with a bunch of different manufacturers to find out how they source their xanthan gum every time I buy one of their products. I can keep up with the xanthan gum I purchase for baking and just not worry about the rest. There were other manufacturers that I contacted but never heard from. I just threw out their products to remain on the safe side. Still others I just decided to throw away outright. Other products that I had not yet opened I decided to take to parties for others to enjoy. I had a container with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 baking flour that I able to give to someone. Glutino has an alternative that contains neither xanthan gum nor guar gum.
The Anthony’s xanthan gum is a good product, and I haven’t had any problems with it so far. Because of the packaging, though, I will probably try a different brand next time. I need packaging that I can either wash down or handle without any residue on it or on my hands, like a plastic bag inside of a box, where I can open the box, wash my hands, and then remove the bag. I’m very thankful I didn’t contaminate the batch I ordered because I could not clean the packaging, but it could very well happen to a future batch.
It’s very possible that any of those times I thought I had symptoms from xanthan gum, the symptoms could have been caused by something else. However, knowing all the trouble I had last year trying probiotics, probably due to the medium on which the bacteria were grown, and knowing how sensitive I’ve become to trace amounts of wheat/gluten, it makes sense that wheat-based xanthan gum could cause problems for me. It just makes sense to avoid it whenever possible and if not, determine the source to make sure it’s not wheat-based.
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