The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed that it has sent a letter of no objection to a request for the caloric value to be changed from four to 1.7 calories per gram.
The application by a company which has not been disclosed was said to be in response to research that it had funded.
However, an FDA spokesman said: “This action by FDA allows other firms to use the same calories per gram for gum arabic.”
Gum arabic is widely used by the food and beverage industry to thicken, emulsify and stabilize products such as candy, ice cream and sweet syrups as well as beverages.
It is also a fiber and experts say that the decision by the FDA means that formulations using gum arabic will now have a lower calorie count.
Total sales of hydrocolloid gums were an estimated $760m in 2007, which increased from $635 in 2004, according to Leatherhead Food International. The second biggest sector is gum arabic, which followed locust bean gum. The world market for gum arabic increased 9.1 percent from 165m in 2004 to $210m in 2007
The supply of gum arabic, also known as acacia gum because it comes from Acacia trees in the gum belt of Africa, is variable due to political and climatic factors in the primary producing countries like Sudan and Nigeria and this has led to spikes in the price of the ingredient.
The top producers (mainly Sudan) bring about 50,000 tonnes of the gum to the market each year.
Attempts have been made to find an alternative that could be used as a thickener, adhesive, and stabilizer for food and beverage applications.
This has led researchers, particularly in the US, to look into the use of corn fiber, a readily available and low valued by-product of corn milling, to produce a gum that could be used as a thickener, adhesive, and stabiliser for food and beverage applications.