Daniel Dwyer, age 11, of Randolf, Neb., for his question:
Is chewing gum made from horses, hoofs?
Our foods, including candies and chewing gums, our medicines and toilet goods are supervised by strict government laws. Just in case a manufacturer should try to fool us, a list of all the ingredients must be printed on the package. You will not find horse hoof listed as one of the ingredients in a package of chewy chewing gum. In fact, all the ingredients in a stick of chewing gum are gifts to us from the plant world.
The horse is a meaty animal, but most countries frown on the idea of serving the noble animal as human food. Horse meat was eaten by our remote ancestors and throughout history it has been eaten, even by fussy people, during times of famine. But in America, the law steps in with strict penalties if a restaurant tries to pass off horse meat as beef.
We use the horse’s hoofs, bones and skin to make glue and we use his hide to make leather. We also use the sturdy hair of his mane and tail to make string and tough, woven cloth. We serve horse meat to our pet cats and dogs but most people do not like the idea of eating an animal who happens to be one of our most reliable friends.
No part of the horse is used in the recipe for making delicious chewing gum. In fact, a chewy stick of gum contains no animal product of any kind. Every item in the recipe comes from a plant. This is true even of bubble gum which contains an added elastic ingredient which might be mistaken for some kind of glue, This bubble popping ingredient is latex, a stretchable sap taken from one of the many rubber plants.
The chewy base in an ordinary stick of chewing gum is also a latex, or gummy plant sap. It is called chicle and it comes from a leafy tree which grows in the steamy rain forest of tropical Yucatan and neighboring countries.
This is the sapodilla tree and it produces the chewy ingredient which goes into most of our chewing gum. When sapodilla chicle runs short, the manufacturer sometimes uses a gummy plant sap called jelutong which comes from a rubber type tree of Indonesia. The recipe for ordinary chewing gum calls for plenty of sugary sugar from sugar canes or sugar beet, both of which are plants. Mints and various fruits are added to give flavor and these too are given to us from the world of plants.
The chicle from the sapodilla tree is thoroughly purified and processed before it is ready to go into a chewing gum recipe. All the other items in the recipe are also thoroughly purified and all this careful cleaning is supervised by strict government regulations.