Does Gum Have Palm-Oil In It?

Update Below

Today's feature is brought to you by one of our readers who loves gum and the environment and wants to know: does he have to make a choice between the two?

Does Gum Have Palm-Oil In It? | Selva Beat Magazine

It's a great question -- gum has never been something I have scrutinized for its ingredients in the past. It's always kind of a mindless, knee jerk response to grab a pack in line at the store or before I fly. 

First, let's examine a common ingredient's list for a gum you may buy:

SORBITOL, GUM BASE, XYLITOL, GLYCEROL/GLYCERIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, MANNITOL; LESS THAN 2% OF: SOY LECITHIN, HYDROGENATED STARCH HYDROLYSATE, ACESULFAME K, SUCRALOSE, COLORS (RED 40, RED 40 LAKE), BHT (TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS), ASPARTAME. 

Of these, the one to focus on would be glycerol or glycerin, which is derived from vegetable oils and keeps the gum from drying prematurely. So, to know if your gum truly has palm-oil in it, then you would likely have to e-mail the brand and inquire about how they source their vegetable oil.

Interestingly enough, all of the brands featured in the picture above are owned by one corporation: Wrigley Inc. If you dig a little deeper, you'll see that Wrigley is actually a subsidiary of Mars, one of the largest food companies in the world. Scrutinized in the past for their environmental impact, Mars is a now member of the RSPO and has committed to using 100% certified sustainable palm-oil, though for them this means the Mass Balance supply chain. And you know how we feel about that. Their reasoning:

The mass balance model requires processors to purchase palm oil from certified sources, but allows them to mix it with conventional palm oil during transportation, processing and packaging. It reduces the cost and complexity of handling separate supply chains and fosters greater uptake of certification. This means that while enough certified palm oil enters the supply chain to cover our needs, some of the palm oil we actually receive today will come from unknown and non-certified sources 

It should be noted that in this context that "conventional" palm-oil may as well mean conflict palm. And though they have made better strides than most, their argument for not pushing the Segregated supply chain system harder at this point is disappointing:

We believe the benefits of segregating sustainable palm oil from regular supplies are not great enough to justify the costs for suppliers or the premium passed on to companies buying palm oil. It is our position that sourcing RSPO-certified palm oil via mass balance, while also going beyond RSPO criteria by developing a fully traceable pipeline, is a more effective way to transform the entire supply chain. Mars will buy segregated sustainable palm oil where it is readily available at an acceptable premium, but we do not require our suppliers to introduce segregated systems. 

Their next policy update is September 2015. Read more details here

So, let's say you're adament about not consuming any conflict palm-oil for ethical reasons; What are your options in today's market? 

Unfortunately, your odds are a little slim. In fact, I've just stopped buying chewing gum entirely. While I haven't missed it much, the whole point of this website is to make transitioning to ecofriendliness easier and not quitting the things you love cold-turkey. Unfortunately, most of the "alternative" gum companies use palm-oil based glycerin as well, though Simply Gum has told us that they are reformulating to be palm-oil free. They were unable to give me a timeline, however.

The only palm-oil free gum I have found seems to be Zellie's; here is the ingredient's list: xylitol, gum base, sunflower lecithin, gum arabic, carnauba wax, and natural flavors. Soy and glycerin free! To be completely truthful though, I should note that Zellie's is likely not a palm-oil free company, as their mints and 'polar bears' contain stearic acid and magnesium stearate. 

Update | Tree Hugger bubble gum has confirmed that they are glycerin and palm-oil free. Definitely not a breath freshener, this may be a good choice if you're missing the whimsy of rainbow-colored gum balls in your life!

TL;DR Yes, 99% of gum has palm-oil in it and finding palm-oil free gum (made by a palm-oil free company) is a tough game. A glycerin-free gum, like Zellie's, is your best bet! And if you're looking for bubble gum, Tree Hugger is a safe choice, too.

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