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What's in Candy Corn?

The variety of sources for some of our favorite food ingredients are amazing...and surprising. We read the names of ingredients but don't always know the source of them. Take confectioner's glaze, for example. Sounds sweet, right? It's used in a lot of candy, but it comes from a surprising source. So what is it?

Confectioner's glaze is a product made from the resin of the lac scale insect. It's not part of the insect itself. Instead, the lac scale insect secretes resin onto the branches. Harvesters scrape the resin from the branches and then boil, filter, and stretch it. After it's stretched it's flaked.

Then the resin can be used for resin products like shellac or confectioner's glaze. Shellac seals and protects wood and even plastics. Some nail polish manufacturers use it to make the polish glossy. A lot of candy manufacturers use the resin from the lac scale insect to make the candy or chocolate shiny. Think of gumballs and sprinkles! At one time, shoes and hats would be stiffened using the shellac. Some playing cards' plastic coating even comes from shellac.

During my Insects Make WHAT?! program, the question of why people choose to use an insect product in food arises. Businesses must decide what ingredients best meet their needs. If two comparable products do the same job but one is man-made and one is natural (like resin), they can choose the product that better matches their goals. Some companies and people prefer natural products. Others want to avoid animal products and by-products. It's up to the consumer to understand the ingredients and decide for themselves-if they even have a preference.

If you want to know about more things we use from insects, you may want to look into my book, Insects as Producers from Rourke Educational Media. If you're in the PA/MD/DE area, consider asking your local school, library, or private group (such as a homeschool or scouting group) to host one of my programs. I love to get children excited about science, history, and writing!
So, what do you think about confectioner's glaze?

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