Shellac on Fruit in UK Supermarkets

by Sandra
Last updated: 13/01/18

Post was put together in 2014, and in need of an update with some new updates for 2018

Many vegans may not be aware that the shine on some of your favourite fruits may actually be made from shellac: a resin from the secretions of the female lac insect. The food additive is also known as E904 and is used to keep the fruit longer and gives it a shiny protective coating. I also understand that Innocent smoothies are not labelled as being suitable for vegans as they might contain shellac.  Some orange juices are also not vegan for this reason. Shellac is also used on sweets, nail products and many other uses. So if you see E904 or shellac you know to avoid it and if something looks shiny try to find out what wax made it that way.

So I have been contacting supermarkets and trying to find out if they use shellac on any of the fruit and with the help of information obtained from others that have also wrote and got a reply this is the summary so far.

TIP If its says E904 on the box you know its shellac.


Aldi say they are only able to give this information by single product in a named store as they don’t use the same supplier for each store.


Received 11/1/18


We can confirm that the only fruits that could contain post harvest treatments which carry a very small amount of shellac are citrus fruits. This is common in the industry at present, and our business is working with overseas suppliers and post harvest treatment companies ongoing to try and find an alternative which does not contain shellac.


I can confirm that shellac waxes are used by some of our suppliers for the waxing of citrus fruits and apples (apples from USA only).


Use it on all citrus fruit, but not other fresh products. They sell unwaxed oranges and lemons, but not unwaxed other citrus such as kumquats, satsuma’s etc.


Thank you for your enquiry regarding our fresh fruit and whether they are coated in non-vegan shellac.

After asking my Business Support Team for assistance with your enquiry, I’ve been informed of the following –

Unlike some of our competitors, we do not regularly wax our fruit and vegetables.

Shellac is widely used in the food industry and is a resin secreted by the female lac bug.

The products that do use shellac wax coating are:

All citrus (oranges, grapefruits etc.) from throughout the world (probably an industry standard) are either shellac based or contain shellac within the wax mix.

Peruvian and Brazilian produce that’s waxed e.g. mango, avocado, citrus, all contain shellac in the formulation.

Apart from the above, all other areas are currently suitable for Vegans.

Lemons can be particularly volatile. The Spanish season finished early and South African ones are hindered by disease. The lemons we have are from RSA, Chile and Argentina and due to the distance they travel, they have to be waxed for preservation. Without the wax, the fruit would not last and would have no shelf-life for our customers. This has the same effect on our organic lemons.

The wax can be removed by scrubbing it off with hot water and a nail brush.

If the fruit/veg is pre packed and marked as suitable for vegan, then it is suitable regardless of the wax used. But some of these items may only state suitable for vegetarian most probably due to the wax used.

I do hope the above has answered your question and thank you for your enquiry.

Kind regards

Jean Baker
Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre 

Received 10/1/18


Shellac is part of some fruit waxes which is currently used on our own brand citrus fruit and avocados.

No answer yet from other supermarkets. If anyone knows anymore info, please let us know.

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