The University College Cork team -- led by Professor Elke Arendt -- has developed a new process for making non-sticky chewing gum. It has the same "chewability" as traditional gum; however, after 45 minutes, it dissolves in the chewer's mouth and breaks up into small pieces which can be safely swallowed.
If commercially applicable, the process could offer hundreds of thousands in savings to authorities who face the annual headache of trying to pry hardened gum off streets.
Chewing gum is traditionally made from synthetic rubber, softeners, sweeteners and flavorings. These rubbers are stretchy and extremely sticky and are resistant to many cleaning chemicals. However, the rubber base is important, because it plays a role in determining how the gum tastes, its chewiness and its shelflife.
Arendt has solved the problem of making gum biodegradable, yet still retaining that all-important chewiness. Using her previous research in the area of gluten-free foods, she has created a new gum that uses cereal proteins rather than synthetic rubber as its main ingredient.
She has now patented the recipe for the non-sticky gum and is looking for manufacturers who will bring the product to market. There has already been interest from a number of multinationals.
"The prototype is a gum mix that has the same chewability, and you can even blow a bubble with it. But it doesn't last as long; it degrades in your mouth after 45 minutes," she explained.
"It's also non-sticky; you can swallow it and it's totally healthy -- like eating bread."
She said the gum takes flavorings well; however, the team has not yet dried it or coated it and is hoping chewing gum manufacturers will help with this aspect.
The research was funded by the Department of Agriculture.
From the November 9, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.