What Is Carnauba Wax and Is It Safe to Eat?
When you see the same ingredient listed on your favorite food’s packaging that you also see on car wax, you might take a moment to wonder if this is something that you want to put in your body.
Carnauba wax is one of those ingredients that seems to have multiple uses, and it is only natural to wonder just how safe it is to eat. Exploring where the wax comes from along with how it is made gives you more insight into just how much–if any–of this ingredient you want in your regular diet.
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“In addition to finding the wax covering candy-coated chocolates and fruit, you’ll also find it is used to make gummy fruit snacks and chewing gum. Vitamins are often coated in the wax to smooth the surface for swallowing.”
Where Does Carnuba Wax Come From
Carnauba wax is a natural ingredient that comes from the Carnauba tree in Brazil. During the summer months, the trees produce the wax to help them conserve moisture during the hottest months of the year.
While carnauba wax is used in products all over the world, it is important to note that it can only be harvested from these special trees in Brazil
How Is Carnauba Wax Made?
People harvest the wax by removing the leaves from the tree and allowing them to dry out in the sun. Once the liquid on the leaves dries, workers then beat the leaves to remove the wax.
When the wax first comes off of the leaves, it is a pale yellow color. During the manufacturing process, the wax is refined and bleached until it appears clear. The carnauba wax is then further processed to turn it into powder and flakes that are then shipped off for use in food and other products.
Why Is Carnauba Wax Used In Food?
This wax has several potential benefits that manufacturers use to their advantage. One of the main qualities of carnauba wax is that it has a high melting point of around 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
The high melting point means that the wax will essentially stay the way that the food manufacturers intend. For example, you’ll notice carnauba wax on candy-coated chocolates that are designed to not melt in your hands.
Carnauba wax also gives food that slick, shiny look that consumers tend to prefer. If you’ve ever admired the beauty of a fresh apple, then you’ve likely noticed carnauba wax on your food without even realizing it.
What Types of Food Contain Carnauba Wax?
In addition to finding the wax covering candy-coated chocolates and fruit, you’ll also find it is used to make gummy fruit snacks and chewing gum. Vitamins are often coated in the wax to smooth the surface for swallowing.
Nuts and dried fruit are a few more types of food that may contain carnauba wax, and many hard candies contain it as well. As a vegan, you are likely to consume a large amount of carnauba wax due to your diet that consists mostly of fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Is It Safe to Eat?
The FDA currently lists carnauba wax as being safe for human consumption provided that it is used ins the proper manufacturing and feeding processes.
One of the reasons why carnauba wax is so safe to eat is because its high melting point prevents it from breaking down in the body. Essentially, the carnauba wax passes right through your digestive system without leaving behind any of its components.
What Are Alternatives to Carnauba Wax?
Some people prefer to avoid carnauba wax, and you’ll occasionally find companies choose to use other types of ingredients in their products. When they do, candelilla wax, vegetable oil and beeswax are the most common alternative ingredients that you’ll find in food products.
Keep in mind, however, that beeswax is not typically considered vegan since it comes from insects. Many people prefer to eat carnauba wax over beeswax when they follow a strict vegan lifestyle, so you may need to be mindful of checking the ingredients of any vegan-friendly vitamins and other products that you buy.
Is Carnauba Wax Good for You?
Not really, but it isn’t bad for you either. The reason why carnauba wax doesn’t provide you with many health benefits comes down to the fact that it doesn’t break down in your body.
When you eat food with carnauba wax, you don’t have to worry about it adding extra calories or fat to your diet. Yet, you also don’t receive any nutritional benefits from it other than potentially helping food make its way through your digestive system.
Is Carnauba Wax Vegan?
Strict vegans often prefer to avoid eating food with carnauba wax for several reasons. Technically, the wax comes from a plant source, which should make it vegan-friendly. However, there are additional things to consider when you are deciding if you want to exclude the wax from your diet.
The main reason why many people don’t consider the wax to be vegan is because most manufacturing processes result in it containing fatty alcohols that may come from animal and insect sources along with hydrocarbons.
There are also concerns about unfair labor practices being used in Brazil, which could include child and slave labor. Fortunately, this issue is being mitigated by organizations that are geared toward ensuring that companies that choose to use carnauba wax in their products demand harvesters to follow fair trade policies and use sustainable practices.
Currently, harvesters only remove a specific amount of leaves from the trees so that they can continue to thrive. Making sure that the products you buy are ethically-sourced is one way to make sure that the carnauba wax you consume is vegan-friendly.
Is Carnauba Wax Gluten Free?
One of the reasons why carnauba wax is used in so many food and cosmetic products is because it is hypoallergenic.
People who have gluten allergies can safely eat carnauba wax provided that the food it is used in is also safe for them to eat.