What Is E904 in Food

by Everett Dennis
a brief overview

What is e904 in food? This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of E904, a commonly used food additive. From its origins and production to its role in the food industry, we will explore the various aspects of E904. Additionally, we will discuss the health and safety concerns surrounding E904, as well as regulatory standards and alternatives in food production.

E numbers are codes for substances that are permitted to be used as food additives within the European Union. These codes provide valuable information about the composition and safety of the additives. In this section, we will delve into the significance of understanding E numbers in food additives and how they affect consumer choices.

The origins and production of E904 are crucial in understanding its properties and potential impact on food products. We will explore how E904 is sourced and manufactured, shedding light on its chemical makeup and characteristics as a food additive.

Many common food products contain E904 as an additive for various purposes such as color enhancement, preservation, or texture improvement. This section will highlight some of these products and how E904 contributes to their overall quality and appeal.

Despite its widespread use, there are concerns regarding the health and safety implications of consuming food products containing E904. We will examine these concerns in detail, addressing potential risks associated with this additive.

As we embark on this exploration of E904 in food, it is essential to understand its role as a food additive. We will uncover the specific functions and benefits that E904 offers in the production of various food items.

Regulatory standards play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and quality of food additives like E904. In this section, we will discuss the existing regulations governing the use of E904 in food production.

Furthermore, there are alternative options available to replace or reduce reliance on E904 in food production. We will explore these alternatives, considering their effectiveness and compatibility with industry standards.

Proper labeling of foods containing E904 is essential for consumer awareness and choice. We will address issues related to transparent labeling practices for informing consumers about the presence of this additive in their food products.

Understanding E Numbers in Food Additives

When examining the ingredients list of certain food products, consumers may come across unfamiliar terms such as “E904.” This alphanumeric code is part of a classification system referred to as E numbers, which are used to indicate food additives approved for use within the European Union. E numbers provide valuable information about the substances present in food and are crucial for ensuring transparency and safety in the food industry.

E numbers encompass a wide range of substances, including preservatives, colorants, flavor enhancers, and emulsifiers. Each additive is assigned a unique E number, which helps identify its specific function and origin. In the case of E904, it is important to understand its properties and applications in food production.

What is E904 exactly? Also known as shellac or confectioner’s glaze, E904 is a natural resin secreted by female lac bugs indigenous to India and Thailand. The substance is harvested from the insects’ excretions and processed into a soluble form suitable for use in various food applications. Although derived from an organic source, E904 undergoes rigorous purification processes to ensure its safety and purity before being utilized as a food additive.

The primary purpose of incorporating E904 into food products is to enhance their appearance and prolong their shelf life. This versatile substance acts as a protective coating that provides shine and resistance to moisture, making it particularly useful for preserving fresh fruits, candies, chocolates, and pharmaceutical tablets. Its natural origins make it an appealing choice for manufacturers seeking alternatives to synthetic additives.

Despite its widespread usage in the food industry, concerns have been raised regarding the health and safety implications of consuming products containing E904. While regulatory authorities classify this additive as safe for consumption within specified limits, some individuals may experience allergic reactions or sensitivities to shellac-derived substances. As such, it is essential for consumers to be informed about the presence of E904 in food items through accurate labeling practices.

The Origins and Production of E904

E904 is a food additive that is commonly used in the food industry, but what exactly is E904 and how is it produced? In this section, we will explore the origins and production process of E904, shedding light on where this additive comes from and how it is made.

Origins of E904

E904, also known as shellac or confectioner’s glaze, is a natural resin secreted by the lac insect during its natural life cycle. The lac insect primarily inhabits trees in India and Thailand, where it feeds on the sap of the trees. The resin secreted by the lac insect is then harvested and processed to create shellac, which is subsequently used as a food additive in various products.

Understanding E904 in food products

Production Process

The production of E904 involves a series of steps to harvest and refine the resin obtained from the lac insect. Once collected, the raw excretion undergoes purification processes to remove impurities such as bark residues and insect parts. After purification, it is then melted down into thin sheets or flakes for ease of use in food production. These sheets can be further refined into a powdered form or dissolved in alcohol to create liquid shellac for application on food products.

Environmental Impact

While E904 originates from a natural source, concerns have been raised about its impact on the environment. The harvesting of resin from lac insects has raised ethical questions about animal welfare and sustainability. There are efforts to ensure responsible harvesting practices that minimize harm to the environment.

Supply Chain Transparency

Another aspect of concern related to the production of E904 is regarding supply chain transparency. It becomes essential for manufacturers and consumers alike to understand where their E904 additives are sourced from, ensuring ethical practices are followed throughout the supply chain.

As we delve into the origins and production process of E904, it becomes clear that while it may be derived from a natural source, there are still ethical considerations surrounding its use in food production. This highlights the importance of understanding not only what E904 is but also where it comes from before being used as an additive in our food supply.

Common Food Products Containing E904

E904, also known as shellac, is a food additive that is commonly found in a wide range of food products. This natural resin is derived from the secretions of the lac insect, native to India and Thailand. The resin is processed into a shiny, hard substance that is used to coat and protect various food items. In this section, we will explore some common food products that contain E904 and how it is used in these items.

1. Confectionery: E904 is often used as a glazing agent in confectionery products such as candy, chocolate, and chewing gum. It provides a glossy sheen and helps to prevent moisture loss, keeping the confectionery fresh for longer periods of time.

2. Fresh Produce: Fruits and vegetables are sometimes coated with a thin layer of shellac to enhance their appearance and extend their shelf life. This coating can help preserve the natural shine of fruits like apples and oranges while protecting them from mold and decay.

3. Pharmaceutical Products: E904 is also used in the production of pills and tablets in the pharmaceutical industry. It serves as a coating for oral medications, allowing for easy swallowing while protecting the active ingredients from degradation.

4. Coffee Beans: Some coffee beans are coated with shellac to give them a polished appearance and prevent moisture absorption during storage and transportation.

5. Baked Goods: In the baking industry, E904 is used to provide an attractive sheen on pastries, cakes, and cookies. It also helps to prevent moisture loss and maintain the freshness of these baked goods over time.

While E904 serves several valuable purposes in food production, there are growing concerns about its safety and potential health risks which will be discussed further in another section.

Health and Safety Concerns of E904 in Food

E904, also known as Shellac, is a food additive that is commonly used in the food industry. However, there are some health and safety concerns regarding its use in food products.

One of the main concerns about E904 in food is its potential allergenicity. Some individuals may have allergic reactions to shellac, which can manifest as skin rashes, hives, or even anaphylaxis in severe cases. This is especially important for individuals with known allergies to shellfish or other related substances, as they may be more prone to having a reaction to E904.

Another concern is the potential for E904 to contain impurities such as heavy metals. Since E904 is derived from the excretions of the lac bug, there is a possibility that it could be contaminated with substances like lead or cadmium. While regulatory standards exist to limit these impurities in food additives, it is still a valid concern for consumers.

Furthermore, there are ethical and dietary concerns surrounding the use of E904 in food production. For example, some individuals following strict vegetarian or vegan diets may object to consuming shellac due to its origin from insects. Additionally, there have been debates about whether E904 aligns with certain religious dietary guidelines.

In terms of general safety, excessive consumption of E904 may pose some risk. While small amounts are considered safe for human consumption by regulatory bodies, overconsumption of foods containing high levels of shellac could potentially lead to adverse health effects over time.

Explaining the role of E904 in food

Overall, it is important for consumers to be aware of these health and safety concerns when it comes to E904 in their food choices. By staying informed and being mindful of ingredient labels on food products, individuals can make more informed decisions about what they consume.

Health Concerns Safety Concerns
Allergenic reactions Potential impurities like heavy metals
Ethical and dietary concerns Risk of excessive consumption

The Role of E904 as a Food Additive

E904, also known as Shellac, is a food additive that serves a variety of purposes in the food industry. Whether it’s adding shine to candies or providing a protective coating for fruits and vegetables, E904 plays an important role in enhancing the appearance and prolonging the shelf life of various food products. In this section, we will delve into the different ways in which E904 is utilized as a food additive.

The primary function of E904 is as a glazing agent, used to give confectionery products that glossy and attractive appearance. It is often used on chocolates, hard sugar-coated candies, and even some types of pills and tablets. Additionally, E904 is commonly added to fresh fruits and vegetables to create a protective coating that can extend their shelf life.

Here are some common products where E904 can be found:

  • Hard candies
  • Chocolates
  • Fresh fruits (such as apples and citrus fruits)
  • Vegetables (such as cucumbers and peppers)
  • Confectionery products

It’s important to note that while E904 has its benefits in terms of improving the look of food products and preserving their quality, there are concerns about its safety when consumed in large quantities over time.

In addition to its use in food products, E904 also has industrial applications. It is utilized in pharmaceuticals as a coating for tablets and pills, as well as in the production of nail polishes and other cosmetics. This multipurpose nature of E904 highlights its significance not only in the food industry but also in other sectors.

Regulatory Standards for E904 in Food

E904, also known as shellac, is a food additive that is subject to regulatory standards in the food industry. The use of E904 in food products is regulated by various governing bodies around the world to ensure its safety for consumption. These regulatory standards aim to establish the acceptable levels of E904 in food products and to provide guidelines for its use in food production.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the use of E904 in food. It has been designated as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) by the FDA, meaning that it is considered safe for consumption when used in accordance with good manufacturing practices. The FDA sets limits on the amount of E904 that can be added to specific types of food products and requires manufacturers to adhere to these limits.

Similarly, the European Union’s regulatory authority for food additives, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), conducts thorough scientific evaluations of food additives including E904. It establishes acceptable daily intake levels and maximum residue limits for E904 in various food categories. Additionally, it regularly reviews scientific data on E904 to ensure its safety and re-evaluates its status as a food additive.

Other countries have their own regulatory standards for E904 in food production based on scientific evidence and risk assessments. These standards are put in place to protect consumers from potential health risks associated with excessive consumption of E904 or other food additives.

Adherence to these regulatory standards is crucial for manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe for consumption and compliant with legal requirements. This includes accurate labeling of products containing E904, as well as regular monitoring and testing to confirm that they meet established safety standards.

Overall, regulatory standards play a vital role in overseeing the use of E904 in food production and ensuring that it does not pose any significant health risks to consumers when used within specified limits. By complying with these regulations, manufacturers contribute to maintaining consumer trust and confidence in the safety of the foods they produce.

This section provides an overview of the key regulatory authorities responsible for establishing standards for E904 in food production and emphasizes their role in safeguarding public health. Understanding these regulations helps both manufacturers and consumers make informed decisions about the use and consumption of products containing E904.

Alternatives to E904 in Food Production

Plant-Based Alternatives

One of the alternatives to E904 in food production is plant-based additives. Many natural substances derived from plants can serve as an effective replacement for E904. For example, agar-agar, a gelatinous substance derived from seaweed, can be used as a thickening agent in place of E904 in certain food products. Additionally, pectin, which is found in fruits such as apples and citrus fruits, can also be used as a gelling agent in place of E904.

Synthetic Alternatives

Synthetic alternatives to E904 also exist in the form of other food additives that can provide similar functions. For instance, polyethylene glycol (PEG) is often used as an emulsifier and stabilizer in food products. It can mimic the properties of E904 and is considered safe for consumption. Additionally, silicon dioxide, which is commonly used as an anti-caking agent and absorbent in food production, can serve as an alternative to E904.

The significance of E904 in food items

Natural Resin Substitutes

Another potential alternative to E904 is the use of natural resin substitutes such as arabic gum or shellac from non-insect sources. These substances can provide similar properties to E904 and are sourced from natural materials. While they may not be as widely utilized as E904 currently, their potential use as alternatives is being explored by food producers looking to reduce reliance on synthetic additives.

Biodegradable Options

As consumer demand for environmentally friendly products increases, there is growing interest in biodegradable alternatives to E904. This includes exploring biodegradable polymers and coatings that can serve similar functions to E904 but break down more easily in the environment. Research and development efforts are underway to discover sustainable options that could replace E904 without compromising food quality or safety.

Considerations for Implementation

When considering alternatives to E904 in food production, it’s important for food manufacturers to thoroughly assess the safety, efficacy, and sensory impact of any substitute before adoption. Regulatory bodies may also need to review these replacements to ensure they meet safety standards for consumption. As technology continues to advance and consumer preferences evolve, the search for viable alternatives to E904 will likely continue within the food industry.

E904 in Food Labeling and Consumer Awareness

When it comes to the food we consume, it is important for consumers to be aware of what they are ingesting. This includes being knowledgeable about the various additives and ingredients present in the products we buy. E904, also known as shellac, is one such additive that is commonly used in the food industry. But what exactly is E904 and how can consumers become more aware of its presence in the foods they eat?

E904, or shellac, is a natural resin secreted by the lac beetle found in Southeast Asia. It is commonly used as a glazing agent or coating for confectionery, fruits, coffee beans, and other food products. While it is generally recognized as safe for consumption by regulatory agencies such as the FDA and EFSA, some consumers may have concerns about its use in food.

One way for consumers to become more aware of E904 in their food is through improved labeling. In many countries, including the United States and those within the European Union, food labeling regulations require that shellac be listed as an ingredient on product packaging. By reading labels carefully before purchasing food products, consumers can identify whether or not E904 is present.

Consumer awareness of E904 in food can also be heightened through educational efforts. Manufacturers and regulatory agencies can work together to provide information to the public about the use of shellac in food production. This can include details about its origins, production methods, and safety considerations. By arming consumers with this knowledge, they can make more informed decisions about the products they choose to purchase and consume.

In addition to labeling and education, another way to increase consumer awareness of E904 in food is through transparency within the food industry itself. When manufacturers are open about their use of shellac as a food additive and provide clear information about its purpose and safety profile, consumers can feel more confident about their choices at the grocery store.

Overall, increasing consumer awareness of E904 in food involves a multifaceted approach that includes improved labeling practices, educational outreach efforts, and transparency within the industry. As people become more informed about this additive and others like it, they are better equipped to make choices that align with their personal preferences and values when it comes to food consumption.


In conclusion, the use of E904 in the food industry has been a topic of debate for many years. Despite concerns about its potential health and safety risks, it is clear that E904 plays a crucial role as a food additive, providing important functions such as improving texture and appearance in various products.

While some consumers may be apprehensive about the presence of E904 in their food, it is important to note that regulatory standards are in place to ensure that its usage is safe and within acceptable limits. Additionally, efforts are being made to enhance consumer awareness through improved labeling practices, allowing individuals to make informed choices about the products they consume.

Looking ahead, the future of E904 in the food industry will likely involve continued research and development to explore alternative additives that can achieve similar effects without raising as many health concerns. This may lead to the emergence of safer and more sustainable options for food production.

It is also important for manufacturers and regulators to prioritize transparency and accountability in the use of E904 and other additives, addressing any potential risks or adverse effects through careful monitoring and assessment.

Ultimately, while there are legitimate concerns about what is E904 in food, it is clear that ongoing efforts to improve standards, enhance consumer awareness, and explore alternatives will shape how this additive is used in the future. With continued diligence and innovation, it is possible to ensure that E904 remains a valuable tool for food production while maintaining the health and safety of consumers.

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