If you are like me, from time to time you enjoy looking at the odd ingredients of your food and wondering what in the world they are. I don’t know how many people share this interest, but as someone with various food allergies and sensitivities, I have long paid close attention to ingredients . So, recently I went grocery shopping and found a pack of Starburst minis. Looking at the ingredients to make sure that they didn’t have any gelatin in them, I saw that the last ingredient was carnauba wax. Moderately puzzled but intrigued by this, I got the bag of candy for my snacks and then rushed off, not thinking much about it. Perhaps that is the case for you. You might see an odd ingredient and yet you are game to try something out, to see what kind of adventures in eating that you can have.
What is carnauba wax, anyway? Also known as Brazil wax, the material is a wax of the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil. Although it serves as an ingredient to many household ingredients, it is perhaps best known for its role in car polish. Yes, the same material that is used to wax your car’s body and make it shiny is now being used in many candies, at least in the United States. I am not sure the extent that this is allowed in Europe, for example, but for the moment at least it is legal in the United States for this product to be marketed in such a fashion. According to that paragon of health regulation, the FDA, the product is not harmful at the levels at which it is currently consumed. Others, like Dr. Robert Cook, state that the substance is not harmful because it cannot be digested by human beings, so that its properties are never absorbed into our bodies. It is considered, therefore, to be an insoluble wax that merely passes through the body on its merry way into one’s stool.
It is unclear who exactly deserves credit for this particular substance. For one, as a part of creation, credit belongs to God. On a human level, though, this appears to be a triumph of marketing. For one, at least to me, this particular wax has a terrible aftertaste and is not an enjoyable product to use. Even so, it can be found in many products ranging from vitamins and pills to candy, lipstick and dental floss, deodorant, as well as waxes for cars, floors, furniture, and even surfboards . Is it something I’m thrilled is in food items? Not particularly, but the aftertaste is a familiar one, and it’s likely that this particular product will be used in food items as long as it is permitted by law. I would not consider this product unclean, unlike gelatin, but I cannot muster much enthusiasm about consuming an insoluble wax that is made up of fatty acid esters, fatty alcohols, acids, and hydrocarbons. At least I’m not allergic to it, though, so there’s that.
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