Monday, August 8, 2011
The "Stinchless"Truth: Do you know what is lurking in your candy?
Does the thought of eating bugs sound appetizing to you? The thought of it actually makes me a bit queasy. Sadly, you may be eating bugs more often than you thought!
The last time you went to the movies and grabbed a box of Nestle’s Raisinettes, I bet you didn’t know you were eating “bug juice” that is excreted from the rear end of a beetle like bug. Ewe!! Say what?
That shiny coating on most candy is called Shellac. This chemical is produced by the female lac bug as it forms sheltering tunnels as it travels along the outside of trees. The insect sucks the sap off the trees and excretes it almost constantly. Are you getting hungry? The thought of seeing these bugs expel this nastiness makes me want to gag, but the thought of eating it, makes me want to hurl!
The raw shellac which contains lac bug parts and bark shavings is scraped off of the trees. It is then processed for industrial use by placing it into canvas tubes and heating it over an open flame. After the Shellac has liquefied the bug parts and bark seep out of the canvas leaving thick and sticky Shellac which is then dried into a thin sheet and broken up into flakes. It is now ready to be bagged and sold. The end-user uses denatured alcohol to dissolve the broken pieces and make liquid shellac.
If the word Shellac sounds familiar to you, I bet it is because you have seen it sold at your local home improvement store. It is the same chemical ingredient used to seal and varnish hardwood floors. It can be found in many products including pharmaceutical drugs including children’s medicines, shampoos, lipsticks, hairspray, chewing gum, etc.
The word “Shellac” is most commonly listed on food packages as either confectioner’s glaze or resinous glaze. It can be found in the following candies.
Hershey’s Whopper’s Malted Milk Balls™
• Hershey’s Milk Duds™
• Nestle’s Raisinettes™
• Nestle’s Goober’s™
• Tootsie Roll Industry’s Junior Mints™ (NOT Tootsie Rolls)
• Tootsie Roll Industry’s Sugar Babies™
• Jelly Belly™ jelly beans, mint crèmes
• Godiva’s™ Dark Chocolate Almond Bar; Dark Chocolate Cherries; Milk Chocolate Cashews; White Chocolate Pearls; Milk Chocolate Pearls.
• Gertrude Hawk’s™ chocolate-covered nuts and raisins; cupcake sprinkles; decorative cake pieces
• Russell Stover’s™ jelly beans
If you think you are safe by avoiding this type of junk food—think again. Have you ever wondered what made that shiny red apple look so polished? Sadly, most conventional fruit and vegetables are coated with Shellac. It helps extend their shelf life and the shininess of the produce appeals to the consumer making you want to buy it.
The next time you are in the mood for candy or for an apple, reach for those that have not been coated with “beetle butt juice.” One more reason to shop organic—you will not find any wax coatings on organic fruits or vegetables.
The FDA has listed shellac as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption. Anything I put into my body better not be listed with a “Generally…” I am not willing to wait and see if the food I am consuming is going to be “generally” safe. After all, how healthy could mixing the shellac in denatured alcohol be for you? One look at the MSDS sheet for denatured alcohol will have you shaking your head! Take a look:
POISON! DANGER! VAPOR HARMFUL. MAY BE FATAL OR CAUSE BLINDNESS IF SWALLOWED. CANNOT BE MADE NONPOISONOUS. HARMFUL IF INHALED OR ABSORBED THROUGH SKIN. FLAMMABLE LIQUID AND VAPOR. AFFECTS CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. MAY AFFECT LIVER, BLOOD, KIDNEYS, GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT AND REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM.
Also, keep in mind that it takes roughly 100,000 of those lac bugs to make 500 g of shellac flakes. In perspective this means every time you pop one of those candies into your mouth, you are actually eating parts from thousands of beetles. Who is hungry now?