Food Facts: "Resinous Glaze"

If you've ever looked at the back of a candy bar (if you don't want to be frightened, we suggest you don't), you've probably noticed a lengthy ingredient label. The first few words may be familiar, but they are usually followed by chemical gibberish, food additive code numbers, and things that are just down-right strange. 

This week, I wanted to investigate a common food additive: "Resinous Glaze."

Resinous Glaze (also called Confectioner's glaze, Pure Food Glaze, Pharmaceutical Glaze, or Natural Glaze) can be found in many packaged foods - mostly candies, medicines, and pills but also found in furniture polish, varnish, paper coating, hair products, cosmetics, paints, and various other products. 

What is it?

Resinous glaze is basically the hardened chemical secretion of a species of scale insect called Kerria Lacca or "lac beetle." The female insect will secrete the original chemical substance as a way of traveling around a tree, and the residue is scraped and processed into this "lac" or "shellac" which then can be used in all the ways (listed above). 

Where does it come from?

The biggest producers of lac are in India and some south-east Asian countries. "Lac" is used in products all of the world.

Is it safe?

Resinous glaze or shellac, the lac product that is used as a food additive in the US is classified as a "GRAS" additive - "Generally Recognized as Safe." Whether or not you deem processed beetle excrement as something you want in your food is up to you.