Cellulose can be found in popular products ranging from crackers and ice cream to pizza sauce and barbecue sauce. What many do not realize, however, is that cellulose is actually wood pulp. Unable to be digested by humans due to the lack of necessary enzymes needed to break the ingredient down, cellulose has been deemed ‘safe for consumption’ by the FDA.
Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured for different functions, such as its prime use throughout the food supply. Cellulose can be found in products under ingredient listings such as cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, and more. Shockingly, the FDA sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products despite the USDA limiting the use of cellulose to 3.5% in meat since fiber in meat products cannot be recognized nutritionally.
Food manufacturers use cellulose as an extender, meaning it provides structure and reduces breakage. In addition to food, cellulose is used in the creation of plastics, cleaning detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, automotive brake pads, glue and reinforcing compounds, construction materials, roof coating, asphalt and even emulsion paints, among many other products. Cellulose is also much cheaper than ‘real’ food ingredients that perform the same jobs and actually add nutritional value to the product. In fact, manufacturers are increasingly adding cellulose to their products to slash costs and fill up their products.
‘As commodity prices continue to rally and the cost of imported materials impacts earnings, we expect to see increasing use of surrogate products within food items. Cellulose is certainly in higher demand and we expect this to continue,’ Michael A. Yoshikami, chief investment strategist at YCMNet Advisors, told TheStreet.
In fact, some products are now removing as much as 50% of the fat from products such as cookies, biscuits, cakes, and brownies, and adding cellulose in as a filler instead.