What To Know About Confectioner's Glaze

A pile of candy corn. It's nice and shiny, because it has lac bug secretions.

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

What is Confectioner's Glaze?

Confectioner's glaze, also known as pharmaceutical glaze, Is used by numerous candy companies to add a shiny, smooth finish on their products. It's made using shellac, but shellac—or “beetle juice,” as ABC News calls it—is made of bug secretions.

How is Shellac Made?

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.

Uses for Shellac

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.

Shellac and the FDA

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. (The FDA also allows a certain amount of insect fragments into the foods we eat.)

Is Confectioner's Glaze Vegan?

No. Because shellac is hardened lac bug secretions, products containing it are not considered vegan. 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. 

Other 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.

Click to See Our Sources

“7 Grossest Things in Your Food,” by Mandy Oaklander, ABCNews.com

“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

Here are some more Halloween tips:


Pamela Bump

Pamela is the Audience Growth Manager for the HubSpot Blog and holds an M.S. in Media Ventures from Boston University. Before HubSpot, she was Taste for Life’s first Web Editor & Social Media Expert and Harvard Business Review’s first Growth Editor.  In her roles, she’s managed content strategy, social media, and audience growth tactics.

Although her career is focused on digital marketing and editorial innovation, she continues to write for TFL to quench her thirst for food blogging and health journalism.