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What’s That Glaze on Your Vitamins?

Shellac is also used as a pharmaceutical glaze, and serves as a coating material for tablets and capsules, particularly in time-released or delayed-action pills, since it stops the pill from breaking down in the stomach.

Also known as ‘gum lac’, shellac also finds its way into household products such as sealing wax, adhesives, polish and varnish; in cosmetics such as hairsprays, mascara, nail polish, perfume and lipstick (and yes, there are vegan alternatives for all of these); as a binding agent in printing inks and paints; and in agriculture – coating urea to produce a slow releasing fertilizer.

Is there a vegan alternative to shellac? Of course! Zein, a corn protein, is a competitive non-animal-based product. Pure zein is clear, odorless, tasteless, hard, water-insoluble, and edible. It is already used as a coating for candy, nuts, fruit, pills, and other encapsulated foods and drugs. In the United States, it may also be labeled as ‘confectioner’s glaze’. NOTE: As well as sometimes being made from shellac, confectioner’s glaze can also contain beeswax.

So, what do you do if you want to know whether that shine on your candy comes from an animal or a plant? Call the company, of course! Not only does making that call give you a definitive answer as to the origin of the ingredient, but it also lets the company know that there is an increasing demand for vegan alternatives to shellac and other animal-based ingredients that are, frankly, archaic.

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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Image: thanunkorn /

Read more: Conscious Consumer, Health, Pets, Vegan,

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Angel Flinn

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a non-profit educational organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition.


+ add your own
12:16AM PDT on Oct 25, 2013

thanks for sharing

6:52PM PST on Nov 12, 2011

Interesting and informative, should I mourn the insect?

4:09PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

very nice

10:56AM PDT on Aug 13, 2011

That was enlightening!

11:38AM PDT on Aug 12, 2011


1:00PM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

Thanks Lynda

I should have posted that. I laughed myself silly when when I 1st read it. The farmers in India are brilliant.

4:38AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

it is good some people "care" about insects. to me, it seems animal rights people only care for cute mammals.

12:13AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

I am speechless. Still trying to ... digest... the info.

Can you pls list the sources, where you find all this info?


7:36PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

It isn't any worse than what's in most of the packaged food on the store shelves: hair, feathers, wood pulp, more bugs, all by another name. But, uh, yum. And I agree with Sue Horwood. Corn and its derivatives...what a horror. It's in everything and it's not fun if you can't tolerate it.

7:13PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Sharon, there is no need to be alarmed. Despite the emotion-manipulative wording in this article, the insects are NOT killed. The “bug parts” are from lac bugs that have died of natural causes or from other insects who have entered the sticklac tunnel, and they are filtered out, along with bark fibres, through natural cotton fabric. The lac bug is NOT crushed up for dye: many trees that it feeds on have highly-coloured sap. It is in the best interests of the people of India and Thailand to keep the insects alive, as a dead insect will produce no income.

For anyone interested in the facts:

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