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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Sterculia Gum (karaya gum)

The GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database allows access to opinions and conclusions from 115 SCOGS reports published between 1972-1980 on the safety of over 370 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) food substances. The GRAS ingredient reviews were conducted by the Select Committee in response to a 1969 White House directive by President Richard M. Nixon.

Sterculia Gum (karaya gum)

  • SCOGS-Report Number: 5*
  • Type Of Conclusion: 2
  • ID Code: 9000-36-6
  • Year: 1973
  • 21 CFR Section: 184.1339

SCOGS Opinion:

While the literature on biological effects of sterculia gum is not extensive, it does permit of several observtions on the health aspects of the substance as a food ingredient. Sterculia gum can cause allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. What proportion of the population is so affected is not known. A statistically-significant survey, conducted by practicing allergists, would help to determine whether significant numbers of persons are being placed in a state of receptiveness to cross-reactive allergies based upon lifelong daily exposures to sterculia gum and the other two gums alleged to be allergenic: gum arabic and gum tragacanth. Growth-depressing properties have been attributed to sterculia gum when it is fed in large amounts to laboratory animals. However, it is to be expected that the unpalatability of the gum in any diet to which it is added at a high level would ultimately affect consumption and hence the growth curve. While no fetotoxic effects were reported in teratologic tests, the data indicated that sterculia gum fed at a level of 800 mg per kg of body weight for 10 days resulted in maternal deaths of one-third of the pregnant mice. The Select Committee has noted the same type of result in other reports by this institution, using high doses of a variety of vegetable gums, tested on a variety of laboratory animals. The doses of gum were generally much higher than those to which humans are likely to be exposed. Nevertheless, these tests should be repeated, in due course, to determine the cause of the material toxicity. With due consideration for the foregoing observations, the Select Committee concludes that: There is no evidence in the available iniformation on sterculia gum that demonstrates or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when it is used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced. However, it is not possible to determine, without additional data, whether a significant increase in consumption would constitute a dietary hazard.

*Complete reports containing details of the safety studies that formed the basis of the opinions and conclusions and are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 605-6000.