Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide with many industrial uses, including as a common food additive. It is an effective thickening agent and stabilizer to prevent ingredients from separating. It can be produced from simple sugars using a fermentation process, and derives its name from the species of bacteria used, Xanthomonas campestris.
Xanthan gum was discovered by Allene Rosalind Jeanes and her research team at the United States Department of Agriculture, and brought into commercial production by CP Kelco under the trade name Kelzan in the early 1960s. It was approved for use in foods in 1968 and is accepted as a safe food additive in the USA, Canada, European countries, and many other countries, with E number E415, and CAS number 11138-66-2.
Xanthan gum derives its name from the species of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacterium responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower, and other leafy vegetables.
Xanthan gum, 1%, can produce a significant increase in the viscosity of a liquid.
- In foods, xanthan gum is common in salad dressings and sauces. It helps to prevent oil separation by stabilizing the emulsion, although it is not an emulsifier. Xanthan gum also helps suspend solid particles, such as spices. Xanthan gum helps create the desired texture in many ice creams. Toothpaste often contains xanthan gum as a binder to keep the product uniform. Xanthan gum also helps thicken commercial egg substitutes made from egg whites, to replace the fat and emulsifiers found in yolks. It is also a preferred method of thickening liquids for those with swallowing disorders, since it does not change the color or flavor of foods or beverages at typical use levels. In gluten-free baking, xanthan gum is used to give the dough or batter the stickiness that would otherwise be achieved with gluten. In most foods it is used at concentrations of 0.5% or less. Xanthan gum is used in wide range food products, such as sauces, dressings, meat and poultry products, bakery products, confectionery products, beverages, dairy products, others.
- In the oil industry, xanthan gum is used in large quantities to thicken drilling mud. These fluids carry the solids cut by the drilling bit to the surface. Xanthan gum provides great "low end" rheology. When circulation stops, the solids remain suspended in the drilling fluid. The widespread use of horizontal drilling and the demand for good control of drilled solids has led to its expanded use. It has been added to concrete poured underwater, to increase its viscosity and prevent washout.
- In cosmetics, xanthan gum is used to prepare water gels. It is also used in oil-in-water emulsions to enhance droplet coalescence. Xanthan gum is under preliminary research for its potential uses in tissue engineering to construct hydrogels and scaffolds supporting three-dimensional tissue formation.