What To Know About Confectioners' Glaze

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If you’re afraid of bugs but love candy corn, one common candy ingredient might give you a spook this Halloween.

Confectioners’ glaze, made from shellac, is used by numerous candy companies to add a shiny, smooth finish on their products. But shellac—or “beetle juice,” as ABC News calls it—is made of bug secretions.

Shellac’s Origin

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. With worries that shellac processes may lead to bugs incidentally getting dissolved into ethanol, some vegetarian and vegan bloggers have encouraged the avoidance of food products with the glaze.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the glaze is a “non-nutritive substance,” or a substance that does not contribute negatively or positively to nutrition. However, it is “generally recognized as safe” by the administration.

Halloween Ingredients to Avoid

Although the glaze may not be associated with direct nutrition issues, other ingredients in your Halloween bag might be. Corn syrup, often used for extra flavoring, has been linked to the United States’ diabetes epidemic. Many treats are also packed with added sugars linked to obesity

Sweet Alternatives for a Healthy Halloween

If you want to avoid added shine, sugar, and corn syrup this Halloween, there are many healthy options that your kids will still enjoy. Check out this list of sugar alternatives!

Planning a Halloween party? Here are more helpful and healthy holiday tips. 

Sources: 

“7 Grossest Things in Your Food,” by Mandy Oaklander, ABC News, ABCNews.com, 7.23.12.
“CPG Sec. 515.100 Confectionery - Use of Non-Nutritive Substances as Ingredients,” Compliance Policy Guidance Manual, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.Gov, 2017
“Ethanol: What Is It?” University of Illinois, illinois.edu, 2017
“Jelly Bean Day Fact: Jelly Beans Are Made With Insect Secretions,” Mental Floss, MentalFloss.com, 4/22/17
“You Eat Bugs (And It Doesn't Bother You At All),” By Dennis Hollier, Food and Agriculture, forbes.com, 3/27/17

Contributor: 

Pamela Bump

Pamela is a recipient of Boston University’s Master of Science in Media Ventures. In addition to developing online content and managing social media for Taste for Life, she’s served as Health Editor/Copy Editor for the Keene Sentinel newspaper, Social Media/Member Engagement Coordinator for Boston Women in Media & Entertainment, and Editorial Assistant for MedTechBoston.com.