Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Bottom Line

My husband, my son and myself went to Michigan over the past weekend to spend time with my family.  We had the best trip ever - except for the part where my husband got sick (for the first time in a year) promptly upon arriving and was in bed for pretty much the whole time.  He went to an urgent care clinic on Sunday morning and got a couple of shots and a couple more prescriptions.  But, we still ended up extending our stay by two days until he was capable of making the drive home.  Other than that, it was wonderful.  :0)

Mom had bought some Granny Smith apples that she was going to use to make pie.  She ended up not making the pie and since they prefer red apples for eating, the Granny Smiths would have went to waste.  Dad asked me if we would want them.  Of course!  I told him that I buy 2 bags of them every week because they are Chris' favorite.  So, when we loaded up the Explorer to leave I grabbed the apples and tossed them in the back - happy that I would have something to send with Chris to work for lunch the next day.  Lord knows there wasn't anything else in the house to eat when we got back!

So, yesterday morning as I'm trying to find things to put in Chris' lunchbox to fill a hole in his belly I reach for the bag of Granny Smith apples.  Then, I read the bag.  That's when I became appalled, angry, horrified, and a few more emotions that I wasn't ready for at 6:30 AM on a Wednesday morning.

I scanned the bag to the computer so you can read it for yourself.  Pardon the crinkles.

Do you see what it says the apples are coated with?  Look, right there above the bag weight.

Coated with Food Grade Vegetable and/or Shellac Based Wax Resin to maintain freshness.

HELLLLOOOOO?  SHELLAC?  REALLY?  Am I being unreasonable here?  I mean, my dad is a carpenter and I remember shellac being a very common finish on many of his wood projects.  I certainly wouldn't have wanted to ingest it.  So, just to make sure I'm not turning into a completely paranoid food freakazoid, I felt the need to Google.  Actually Swagbucks.  Whatever.

This is copied straight from Wikipedia.

Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes (pictured at right), which are dissolved in denatured alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze[1] and wood finish. Shellac functions as a tough all-natural primer, sanding sealant, tannin-blocker, odor-blocker, stain, and high-gloss varnish. Shellac was once used in electrical applications as it possesses good insulation qualities and it seals out moisture. Shellac is often the only historically-appropriate finish for early 20th-century hardwood floors, and wooden wall and ceiling paneling.

From the time it replaced oil and wax finishes in the 1800s, shellac was the dominant wood finish in the western world until it was replaced by nitrocellulose lacquer in the 1920s and 1930s. It remained popular in the Southern United States through the 1950s and 1960s. It continues to be a popular candy glaze for pill shaped sweets such as Skittles.

Shellac is edible and it is used as a glazing agent on pills (see excipients) and candies in the form of pharmaceutical glaze (alternatively, confectioner's glaze). Because of its alkaline properties, shellac-coated pills may be used for a timed enteric or colonic release.[11] It is also used to replace the natural wax of the apple, which is removed during the cleaning process.[12] When used for this purpose, it has the food additive E number E904. This coating is not vegan and most likely not vegetarian either as it may, and probably does, contain crushed insects. In the tablet manufacture trade, it is sometimes referred to as "beetlejuice"[citation needed] for this reason.

There are a few things here that disturb me.  Let's break it down, shall we?  First, they say that it is edible.  But, it has be dissolved in denatured alcohol.  What is that?  Let's ask our handy dandy Wikipedia again.  Mkay?

Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous or unpalatable, and thus, undrinkable. In some cases it is also dyed.

So, they take this "safe" resin and then break it down in a poisonous liquid before they put it on our food, candy and medical pills.  Does anyone else find this a little disturbing - or is it just me?

And, then there is the fact that it most likely has crushed insects in it.  I understand that that is probably an issue with a lot of canned, processed and manufactured foods.  But, apples?  Really?  I wonder how many vegans and vegetarians know that the apples they are eating aren't vegan and vegetarian.  Would they be upset?

I'm just skimming the surface here.  You should Google it yourself.  But, the bottom line for me is that I am not comfortable eating a food that is coated in poison and that is used as an insulator, sealer and in engine work.

One more issue and then I'll be done with my little rant.  As I stated earlier - when we got home from Michigan there wasn't really much in the house to eat.  I have been cutting out the processed foods, which makes weekly grocery runs a necessity.  I have been shopping at Trader Joe's - which is nearly an hour away.  Yesterday, I thought I'd make a quick a run to our little store here in town and buy enough stuff to get me through the next three days when I can get to Indy and do my big shopping.  I had apples, lemons and bananas on my list from the produce department. 

Guess what apples I found?  The exact same kind that I had at home that were coated with shellac.  I proceeded to look at the loose apples.  Same thing.  I moved on to lemons.  All of the lemons were coated with the same stuff.  I asked the guy stocking produce if they had any organic produce.  I know that I have bought it there before.  Evidently, there wasn't enough of a demand for it and the store quit carrying it. 

So, I left the store without buying any apples or lemons.  I did by the bananas because at least they have a peel that I would be taking off - and they aren't on the dirty dozen list.  Actually, they're on the list for the least contaminated produce. 

I never paid much attention in the past to the things that I put in my mouth and offered up to my family.  No wonder we are in the shape we are in.  As I have begun to finally pay attention - words really can't express the emotions I am experiencing.  I'm horrified at what the food manufacturers and FDA are passing off to us as "food".  What's worse is that we thoughtlessly eat it - putting our faith and trust in the fact that they have our best interest and health at heart.  I am realizing that the bottom line for the food industry is the bottom line.  I also find it very unsettling that I can not even buy an apple that hasn't been coated with shellac without driving an hour.

I know that it costs more to buy organic.  We are a one income household.  We scrimp and save and sacrifice to be able to be a one income household, because as a family - that is where our personal priorities are.  That's just us.  We're all different.  But, we have eaten a lot of crap over the past 15 years because it was affordable.  The thing that we have come to realize is that it wasn't affordable.  Oh, maybe on our budget.  But, it cost us in our health.  The stance we have taken as a family is that the buck stops here.  We realize we are going to have to pay.  Either we pay up front by expanding our grocery budget - or we pay down the road with medical expenses and degenerating health.  We choose to pay now.  That means that I won't be purchasing "food" that makes my family sick just to line someone else's pocket.  I will drive an hour if I have to just to be able to put real food on the family table.  I will utilize my farmer's market this summer, as well as my own back yard to grow real food. 

My bottom line is this:  I will be voting with my money.  If that means that I don't shop at my local supermarket because they won't get on board - so be it.  If I have to drive an hour each way to buy nutritious food each week for my family - so be it.  But, I won't be force fed poison any more just to make it easier on the food industry.  And, with that my rant ends.  Thanks for listening.


  1. Wow! It's an amazing process to watch the awakening. I remember mine so clearly.

    You'll be happy in the end (but you know that already).

    If you don't already subscribe to a CSA (local farm share program), look into that. It's a less expensive way to get organic produce.

    Also, try to track down folks nearby with apple trees in their yards who aren't using the apples. People usually don't spray the trees in their yards.

    Unfortunately that only means apples in the fall, but you can dehydrate them and eat apple chips in the winter or can them and eat canned apple slices.

  2. Kari,

    I had heard about CSA's, but hadn't pursued it because we always put out a garden. I do need produce that we don't grow, though. Thanks for the advice - it gives me more to look in to. :0)


  3. Ewww...nasty! I don't want to ingest bug guts, either...but that denatured alcohol thing really bothers me. Ugh. I think I may just have to go get a few more fruit trees for the yard.

    I had heard about a specific type of bug being used for the purpose of making a certain food coloring that is used in those pink and white licorice candies (Good N Plenty?) a while back, but now it's getting me to rethink just about everything we eat. Oh, and I read in a cookbook that Vanillin (the fake vanilla flavoring used in so many things) is the same stuff used to treat chickens in poultry farms for lice. Isn't that lovely? The stuff they're passing off as food products is ridiculous.

  4. Eating healthy is awesome. I am trying to wean my family off junk and to more natural foods wow the grocery bill has gone up this past month. I know in the end we will feel better.

  5. Pam,
    Wow....I totally get your "rant" I have been ranting about FDA and food around here as well. A friend of mine had told me to always buy organic apples because of what they do to the apples to make them ready for purchase. I've also found that alot of produce manufacturers will pick produce before it's ripe, ship it to warehouses where some sort of ethanol gas is used to ripen it before it goes to the's so frustrating!
    Thanks for sharing....good to know I'm not the only one out there "ranting"!


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