Shellac is used as an edible varnish, often referred to as Confectioners’ Glaze, which is usually prepared by dissolving Bleached Shellac or Dewaxed Bleached Shellac in an alcohol or aqueous alkaline solution. The glaze is then sprayed or panned onto a wide array of products with a smooth surface, delivering a clear, shiny, quick-drying, uniform finish and forming a glossy coating. Bleached Shellac provides a satin finish since it contains wax, but offers improved moisture and tack resistance, while Dewaxed Bleached Shellac provides a deeper gloss to the finish. Shellac is sometimes applied in combination with Beeswax to provide a final polish.
Shellac provides a barrier against moisture, humidity and high temperatures, prolonging shelf life and preventing products sticking together once packaged. It also helps coloured confectionery maintain colour stability and minimises bleeding. In addition, Shellac is used as a coater in the packaging industry, providing a release agent for snacks. Shellac in edible form is generally recognised as safe, non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and physiologically harmless, as well as being tasteless and virtually odourless.
In Europe, Bleached Shellac and Dewaxed Bleached Shellac complies with Commission Regulation EU 231/2012 and its specification for E-904 Shellac as a food additive. It is approved for use as a glazing agent for cocoa and chocolate products; other confectionery including breath freshening micro-sweets; chewing gum; and decorations, coatings and fillings, except fruit-based fillings (EU 1129/2011). Elsewhere, Shellac glaze is used as a brightener for chocolate-, yoghurt- and sugar-coated peanuts and raisins, and to glaze wine gums, jelly beans, chewing gum balls, liquorice and marzipan.
In the US, Shellac is included in the FDA’s list of resinous and polymeric coatings that “may be safely used as the food-contact surface of articles intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding food” (21CFR175.300). Shellac is also included in the list of adhesives that “may be safely used as components of articles intended for use in packaging, transporting, or holding food” (21CFR175.105). Furthermore, it “may be safely used as a component of the uncoated or coated food-contact surface of paper and paperboard intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packaging, processing, preparing, treating, packing, transporting, or holding aqueous and fatty foods” (21CFR176.170). Finally, purified food grade Shellac is included in the list of diluents in colour additive mixtures for marking food, namely “inks for marking food supplements in tablet form, gum, and confectionery” (21CFR73.1).
As a natural product, the FDA permits unbleached Orange (Wax-Containing) Shellac to be included as an ingredient in processed products labelled as organic (7CFR205.606).
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