Green light for cellulose gum on food labels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: E number, Cellulose, Cmc

European hydrocolloid suppliers have welcomed new labelling rules
that provide E-number shy manufacturers with an alternative name
for the complex sounding food additive carboxymethylcellulose
(CMC). From now on, cellulose gum can replace CMC and E466 on food

After two years in the pipeline, the industry-backed new regulations entered into force last week under the European directive 2003/114/EC.

"They are destined to put an end to consumer confusion between industrial and food grade CMC,"​ Johan Ven de Koppel at Noviant, a Finnish supplier of CMC, told

The driving force behind the changes to the directive came from the industry itself, which was keen to clarify the difference on labels betwen industrial and food grade CMC that they claim confused both consumers and food processors. A clarification that could open the way to new revenue opportunities.

"CMC has a wide variety of applications from wallpaper glue to bakery products. As an industry we ran into the same reaction ?there was confusion because the name was the same for all products,"​ said Ven de Koppel.

Parallel to the 'confusion element?was the desire to provide manufacturers with a fitting alternative to the European designated 'E466?option for food labels. Clearing up the confusion could help persuade food manufacturers to use cellulose gum rather than other thickeners or stabilisers in their food applications and up the $100 million figure currently spent annually on CMC in food applications. "We hope that a hurdle has been taken away,"​ commented Ven de Koppel.

E numbers are still unpopular in some European countries, for example Germany, but manufacturers lacked any options ?the rules required either CMC or E466 on the ingredients label. In contrast, cellulose gum could hit the right note.

The term cellulose gum is already widely used as a pseudonym for CMC in product specifications. The amendments published last week in the EU's Official Journal bring harmonisation to the global CMC stage, notably because the US already uses cellulose gum for food grade CMC.

Sourced from cellulose fibre (wood pulp, cotton linters) CMC products are supplied in three grades with the high-purity, 99.5 per cent minimum, and are used by the food industry in a range of applications including ice cream, yoghurt, dairy drinks and processed food. Other functionalities include water binding, film forming, dietary fibre, encapsulation and suspension.

Noviant, acquired in 2001 by US chemicals group Huber, is the world's biggest producer of CMC with a 30 per cent slice of the world market. Last week Huber revealed further ambitions in the hydrocolloid marketplace buying up Hercules?28.57 per cent stake in xanthan gum leader CP Kelco.

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