ALL NATURAL? IS HPMC (E464) A CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE TO GELATIN?
As soon as a product is labeled as "vegetarian" or "vegan," consumers immediately get the impression that there’s something inherently good or natural about it, or that it’s somehow better for their health. However, the recent discussions about vegetarian meat substitutes have shown that this is not necessarily true. Such is the case for HPMC hard capsules. They’re vegan, made from cellulose fiber and therefore regarded as natural.
The use of HPMC hard capsules is not just a bonus for vegetarians and vegans, it's also great news for the many consumers who avoid animal products — as long as there’s no perceived disadvantages compared with the animal-based original. However, as a conscientious consumer, it’s worth taking a look behind the all-natural image. Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), also known as hypromellose, is produced from cellulose, a natural polymer and fiber, which is considered to be safe for human consumption.
But, there are some potential disadvantages that are not immediately obvious. HPMC is listed as a food ingredient — E464 — which means that recommended daily maximum quantities must be defined. HPMC undergoes a rigorous manufacturing process involving the synthetic — and not natural — alteration of cellulose. During production, various highly reactive, harmful or toxic substances are used that must be removed and disposed after production, including propylene oxide (which is considered to be carcinogenic) and chloromethane.
The end product is vegan … but is it still natural? By contrast, gelatine has been the safe and trusted ingredient of choice for more than 100 years. And, as gelatine is a foodstuff, rather than a food additive, its use is neither limited nor restricted. It doesn’t even have an e-number. Furthermore, gelatin is GMO-free and sustainable, obtained from natural resources such as pig or bovine skin (by-products from the meat industry) using gentle hot water extraction. And, although being sourced from animals, specific varieties of gelatine can be used to meet the strict religious requirements of Hindus and Muslims, for example; even Kosher versions can be supplied.
Accordingly, gelatin hard capsules can be even suitable for believers. You want to tailor your capsules with gelatin?
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