Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Confectioner's Glaze

On many food items - especially candies - you'll see "Confectioner's Glaze", "Resinous Glaze", or "Pure Food Glaze". These are all names for food-grade versions of Pharmaceutical Glaze, an edible resinous shellac produced from - are you ready for this? - the excretions of the insect Kerria Lacca.

The insect was first classified by modern researchers in 1782, but man has harvested its secretions, known as "Lac" (and this is literally where the term "shellac" comes from"), for thousands of years. The Mahabharata makes reference to a palace built entirely from it.

It is literally the same substance as the shellac which 78rpm records were made of, and the very same shellac with which wood is stained and protective-coated. So how is it possible that a human could digest such a thing? Well, guess what - it isn't. Shellac is practically insoluble in stomach acid, and it mostly passes through your system undigested. This is how it came to be used in pharmaceuticals, to provide an ultra-thin coating for time-release pills.

Being the by-product of an insect (and almost always containing bits of dead insects in the harvesting process), anything containing this glaze is not Kosher, and because of its alcohol content, it is not Halal. And some vegans - those extremists who won't even eat honey because it came from an insect - certainly won't approve.

Most candies out there - from candy corn to Junior Mints - are loaded with the stuff. If you eat a lot of candy (and I do), then you and I have consumed a lot of bug secretion in our times, friend.

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