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Natural gums are polysaccharides of natural origin, capable of causing a large increase in a solution’s viscosity, even at small concentrations. In the food industry they are used as thickening agents, gelling agents, emulsifying agents, and stabilizers. In other industries, they are also used as adhesives, binding agents, crystal inhibitors, clarifying agents, encapsulating agents, flocculating agents, swelling agents, foam stabilizers, etc. Most often these are botanical gums, found in the woody elements of plants or in seed coatings.

Natural gums can be classified according to their origin. They can also be classified as uncharged or ionic polymers (polyelectrolytes). Examples include (E number food additive code):