Shellac is the word that most people associate with the manicure procedure. In fact, the substance, although it relates to decorative cosmetics for nails, is known under the code E904 in international classifications of food additives and refers to antiflaming and glazing components used in the food industry. Glittering glaze on sweets, dragees, candies, chocolate and even fruits, most often, owes its appearance to food shellac. Other names for the additive are sticklac, gummilac resin or stocklac, and one of the advantages for which food manufacturers appreciate it is its natural origin.
Properties of E904, chemical characteristics and production mechanism
Shellac food supplement is structurally represented by compounds and esters of aromatic and fatty hydroxy acids - aleuretin, shellol and others. The composition contains lactones, pigments and shellac wax. The main active substance (resin) is 60-80% of the additive E904.
The substance usually enters production in the form of flakes having a thickness of only a few millimeters. Shellac does not dissolve at all in water, fats, acetone and ethers. It has good solubility in alkalis, aliphatic alcohols, average solubility in benzene, ethanol.
The melting point of the substance is 80 degrees Celsius. In addition to water resistance, it is inherent and resistance to light exposure, as well as an electrical insulating effect.
The first mention of the use of this resin dates back to the 1st millennium BC. India and the countries of Southeast Asia - the habitat of insects called Laccifer lacca (lacquer bugs), resembling bugs.
These insects feed on wood tar and juices that stand out from the branches, bark, and leaves of the trees. Due to the digestive processes of the worms, the substances they eat turn into tar, which insects as a result lay on the branches and bark of trees. The resin or varnish, drying, forms a crust, which is collected in order to undergo further processing.
First, the raw material is dissolved with sodium carbonate - this way the future shellac is cleaned of various organic impurities (particles of insects, leaves).
The resulting material was bleached using hypochlorous sodium, and then dried.
To get rid of the wax in the composition of the additive, at the end it is reacted with a weak solution of sulfuric acid and insoluble wax is filtered off. The result is a bleached shellac purified from wax.
In addition to white, it can be orange or light brown. It is also possible to synthesize a colorless additive.
The technological purpose of the additive E904 is the formation of glazing coatings, preventing or reducing the intensity of foam formation, and preventing the glazing particles from sticking together.
How to use the substance in industry
In the chemical industry, E904 is used for the manufacture of paints, polishes, varnishes for wooden musical instruments and furniture. Before the invention of vinyl in the 40s of the last century, the component was used in the manufacturing process of gramophone records.
Shellac is the basis for plastic film and aluminum foil, it is used in the textile industry to give felt and similar fabrics rigidity, it is also a component of electrical insulating varnishes for impregnating coils of electrical appliances and processing of electrical components.
Shellac is a component of hair sprays and shampoos, various resistant styling products, as well as waterproof mascara.
The cosmetics industry is not complete without shellac: manufacturers highly appreciated its water-repellent properties, temperature stability and the ability to create the necessary texture of the product.
Since 2010, the US began mass production of persistent gel polish, which contains the addition of E904, respectively, it was called “Shellac”. The coating is distinguished by its special durability, color saturation and the ability to align the nail plate.
It is also added to dietary supplements and wax protective coatings for some varieties of cheese.
In the form of a glazing or antifoaming component, E904 is found in such foods:
- fresh fruits (citrus fruits, peaches, pears, apples, melons - for surface treatment);
- sweets, candies, dragees, chocolate;
- flour products with glaze;
- coffee bean;
- chewing gum;
- marzipan mass.
In addition to food production, shellac found its application in the pharmaceutical industry - as a coating for some drugs in the form of tablets and dragees.
Can shellac affect human health
There is no clear answer in favor or against the use of shellac in food today.
The substance was studied in laboratory conditions, and no official data on its possible toxicity or oncogenicity was announced. The only danger he can present is allergic reactions.
In some cases of individual intolerance, food and cosmetics with a substance in the composition can cause itching and skin rashes.
Dietary supplement E904 is not absorbed by the body in any way and is removed from it in an unchanged state.
Packaging and storage rules
Shellac can be transported and stored in various containers, for example, jute or synthetic fabric bags (materials must be allowed to come into contact with food products), in wooden boxes or cardboard boxes, boxes, drums.
In retail, the substance is found in foil containers or in plastic packaging.
Additive E904 is classified by the world community as relatively safe. Its use is allowed in many states: in the USA, Canada, EU countries, Russia. The popular chocolate Ritter sport in its composition contains shellac as a glazing component.
Since the substance has a natural origin, it has quite a few opponents: basically, its use as a component of food products does not cause disputes.
The study of the effects of shellac on human health continues today, but so far all studies have shown that the food supplement E904 is not beneficial, but does not harm the body.