Is this popular ice cream stabilizer safe for use in food?

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

Tara gum is commonly used as a thickener, including in ice cream. Image: Getty/Magone
Tara gum is commonly used as a thickener, including in ice cream. Image: Getty/Magone

Related tags Ice cream

Commonly used as a stabilizer in the food industry including in ice cream, tara gum is derived from the same plant that the ‘unsafe’ plant protein comes from.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that tara flour, a plant-based protein derived from the tara seed germ of the plant Caesalpinia spinosa (pictured, right) does not meet the regulator’s criteria for general recognition of safety due to ‘inadequate scientific data and information demonstrating the safety of its consumption’.

Getty/Carlos Herreros fotografia

The FDA found a lack of sufficient data to establish the ingredient was safe for use in food while at the same time it found research that linked the ingredient to possible risk of liver injury.

The announcement comes in response to an investigation of a foodbourne outbreak when tara flour was found in Daily Harvest French Lentil + Leek Crumbles in 2022.

If tara flour is ‘unsafe’, where does this leave tara gum?

Caesalpinia spinosa, more commonly known as tara, is a leguminous tree native to Peru and other regions of South America.

Its pods are used in leather production and its seeds comprise an endosperm and a germ component that can be processed into tara gum and tara flour, respectively.

Because tara gum is derived from a different part of the plant, it is entirely distinct from the ‘unsafe’ flour ingredient, the FDA has clarified.

This means tara gum is safe for use in food, including in its current uses as a thickening agent and stabilizer in ice cream.

Related topics Ingredients

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