What is Shellac? | Do we eat bugs?

What is shellac?

What is Shellac?

Shellac is a natural resin that is derived from the secretions of the female lac bug (scientifically known as Kerria lacca) found in India and Thailand. The resin is harvested from the branches of trees where the lac bug feeds and forms a protective shellac coating around its eggs. Do we eat bugs?

Shellac has been used for thousands of years as a natural coating for wood, metal, and other surfaces. It is prized for its ability to provide a hard, durable, and glossy finish that is resistant to water, alcohol, and other solvents. Shellac is also used in the food and pharmaceutical industries as a coating for pills, candy, and other products.

In addition to its practical applications, shellac has played a cultural and artistic role throughout history. It has been used in traditional Indian and Southeast Asian art, and was commonly used in early phonograph records and furniture making. Today, shellac is still used in some specialty applications, but has largely been replaced by synthetic coatings in most industrial settings.

What food contains shellac?

Shellac is used as a coating in some foods to improve their appearance, preserve their freshness, and protect them from moisture. Here are some examples of foods that may contain shellac:

  1. Candy: Some types of candy, including jelly beans, gummy bears, and candy-coated chocolates, may be coated with shellac to give them a shiny appearance and prevent them from sticking together.
  2. Nuts: Some types of nuts, such as almonds and pistachios, may be coated with shellac to give them a glossy appearance and protect them from moisture.
  3. Fresh products: Some fruits and vegetables, including apples and cucumbers, may be coated with shellac to help them retain moisture and prolong their shelf life.

It’s worth noting that shellac is considered safe for consumption by regulatory authorities like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, if you have any concerns about consuming shellac, you may want to check the ingredients label of the foods you buy or contact the manufacturer for more information.

What chocolates contain shellac?

Examples of candies containing shellac include candy corn,  Jelly Belly’s jelly beans and Mint Cremes, Nestlé’s Raisinets and Goobers, Tootsie Roll Industries’s Junior Mints and Sugar Babies,  Russell Stover’s jelly beans, Hershey’s Whoppers and Milk Duds and several candies by Godiva Chocolatier and Gertrude Hawk.

How is shellac produced?

Shellac is a resinous secretion that is produced by the female lac bug, which is native to India and Southeast Asia. The process of shellac production involves the following steps:

  1. The lac bug feeds on the sap of trees, such as the banyan, peepal, and kusum, and secretes a resinous substance to create a protective coating around itself.
  2. The harvested resinous secretion, also known as “sticklac,” is crushed and washed to remove any impurities such as bark, twigs, and insects.
  3. The cleaned sticklac is then heated to melt the resin and remove any remaining impurities.
  4. The melted resin is poured onto a flat surface and allowed to cool and harden into thin sheets, which are then broken into flakes.
  5. The flakes are further processed by sieving, washing, and drying to produce a fine, uniform powder.
  6. The powder is then dissolved in ethanol to create a liquid shellac solution, which can be used as a varnish or coating for a variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, and paper.

Overall, the process of shellac production is labor-intensive and time-consuming, as it involves harvesting and processing large quantities of sticklac to produce a relatively small amount of shellac flakes or powder. However, shellac is highly valued for its unique properties, including its ability to provide a durable, high-gloss finish and its resistance to water and chemicals.

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