Sunday, March 13, 2011


Some times food industry can be wrongly indicted for doing things which some consider as undesirable. No doubt many practices being indulged by the industry deserve to be condemned in no uncertain terms and deterrent action taken with no leniency shown against proven culprits. But the latest issue which is being raised to insinuate the processing industry cannot be justified if a scientific assessment is made dispassionately. Use of cellulose which is not digested in human GI tract, often included in food formulations is considered harmless and is permitted by law. To castigate the industry that it is making people eat "wood pulp" is outright childish and preposterous.

"Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you're actually paying for -- and consuming -- may be surprising. Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured to different lengths for functionality, though use of it and its variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, micro-crystalline cellulose, etc.) is deemed safe for human consumption, according to the FDA, which regulates most food industry products. The government agency sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products meant for human consumption. The USDA, which regulates meats, has set a limit of 3.5% on the use of cellulose, since fiber in meat products cannot be recognized nutritionally".

Cellulose, if it is of food grade is a dietary fiber required for good health and according to expert recommendations an average adult must consume 25-30 gm of fiber daily to prevent development of a number of diseases. There are many natural sources of fiber with varying molecular structure and properties. While naturally occurring substances like beta glucan and pectin come under the soluble fiber category, cellulose and a host of non-starch carbohydrates serve as insoluble fiber. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are considered essential for good intestinal health in humans. Production of short chain fatty acids including butyrate in the human bowel by "friendly" microbes helps to strengthen tissues besides providing protection against some form of cancer. As long as the cellulose ingredients used is derived from edible plant sources, one should have no objection regarding their presence in processed foods. The levels of use are self-limited by the changes that will be evident if too much of this ingredient is incorporated in the food and besides its role in nutrition, cellulose also serves the technological necessity in creating desirable mouth feel in many products.


1 comment:

Lisa said...

I read this article and I am interested in learning more. How, as a consumer, would I know where the cellulose is derived from? Also, should people be concerned that the FDA does not specify the amount of cellulose that can be used in any given food product other than meats?