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01
Oct

The Weird and the Wonderful: Shellac is made from bug excrement

Jellybeans are a tasty treat and come in many flavors, but did you realize their shiny coating is made from bug feces? Shellac, also known as confectioner’s glaze, is made from a resin excreted by the female lac beetle, indigenous to India and Thailand. The resin is processed into flakes, dissolved in denatured alcohol to make liquid shellac, and then sprayed on food products or used to make lacquer for hardwood floors and furniture.

Shellac is also sprayed on grocery store apples to make them shiny and keep them fresh in the store. When you pick an apple fresh from the tree and rub it on your shirt, you will produce a nice shine from the natural waxy protection already present in the apple skin. But if you wash that apple first, you won’t be able to make it shine as washing it removes the waxy coating. Apples sold in grocery stores must be washed for sanitary reasons and then sprayed with a fine mist of shellac to restore outer skin protection. Without this waxy layer, the washed apples would spoil too quickly.

The Golden Age of Shellac! Ironically, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that shellac was commonly used as a clear finish. Until that time it was processed mainly for the dye that was extracted from the lac after it was harvested.