When you think of the perfect chocolate bar, what comes to mind? Smooth and creamy milk chocolate? Rich, dark chocolate with a hint of bitterness? How about…shellac?
Yes, you read that right! Shellac is a natural resin secreted by the female lac bug and is used as a coating in many foods, including chocolate.
While it may sound a little strange, shellac actually serves an important purpose in the chocolate-making process.
When chocolate is poured into a mold, it can stick to the surface and become difficult to remove.
This is where shellac comes in! A thin layer of shellac is applied to the mold before the chocolate is poured, creating a barrier that prevents the chocolate from sticking.
Once the chocolate has hardened, the shellac coating can easily be peeled away, leaving behind a perfectly formed chocolate bar.
But shellac isn’t just useful in making chocolate bars.
It’s also used in many other industrial chocolate products, such as chocolate-covered nuts and fruits.
The shellac coating helps to protect the food from moisture and gives it a glossy, attractive finish.
Food-grade shellac, also known as confectioner’s glaze or pharmaceutical glaze, is considered safe for human consumption by regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
After feeding on tree sap, the female lac bug secretes a substance called lac to protect her soon-to-hatch eggs. Often found and collected in forests of India or Thailand, the lac later hardens to create a flaky shellac. It is then dissolved in ethanol, an alcohol fuel distilled from plant materials. The process leads to the creation of glaze and shellac polish.
While the glaze is used to enhance shine of apples, jelly beans, and other hard foods, shellac-based sprays are also used to coat pills, polish fingernails, and varnish wood.
It is not vegan-friendly as it is derived from an insect. Those who follow a strict vegan diet may want to avoid consuming products that contain shellac and look for alternative glazing agents that are plant-based.
When consumed in small quantities, shellac is not expected to have any adverse effects on human health.
The resinous substance is not metabolized by the body and is therefore considered a non-nutritive substance.
However, individuals who are allergic to shellfish or certain insects may have a reaction to shellac, as it is derived from the secretions of the lac bug.
It is better to check the ingredients list on food packaging and consult with a healthcare provider if we have any concerns or underlying medical conditions.
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It is used also as a food-grade coating on certain fruits to extend their shelf life
The glossy finish that shellac imparts to the fruit enhances its visual appeal, making it more attractive to consumers.
This coating forms a protective barrier that helps prevent moisture loss, slows down the oxidation process, and reduces the exchange of gases between the fruit and the external environment.
Shiny fruits in grocery stores are often treated with a food-grade wax or other coatings to enhance their appearance and extend their shelf life.
The coatings serve a similar purpose to shellac, creating a protective layer that helps retain moisture, slow down oxidation, and reduce the exchange of gases.
However, it’s important to note that these coatings are generally safe for consumption and are regulated by food safety authorities to ensure they meet certain standards.
Consumers should wash fruits thoroughly before consuming them, regardless of whether they have a shiny appearance or not.
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