July 23, 2015 by
By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
Calcium stearate is an anticaking agent used in a wide variety of foods including salt, spices, confections, snack products and dry mixes. The VRG noticed while doing a Spring 2015 update on stearic acid and its derivatives that several websites and books list calcium stearate as being primarily derived from cows or pigs. When we discovered from food ingredient manufacturers and suppliers that most calcium stearate used today in food products is from vegetable oils, we decided to check food labels and contact food companies to confirm if the calcium stearate present today in foods was indeed mostly or even solely vegetable-derived.
To accomplish this, we made extensive use of the Internet for locating edible products containing calcium stearate. Google® images of nutrition and supplement labels listed thousands of mostly pharmaceutical products. We went through the pages excluding supplements and any foods containing meat and/or dairy.
An immediate observation we made while searching for calcium stearate-containing foods was that very few products today contain calcium stearate unlike twenty years ago when it was more common. There are many substitute ingredients available today to take its place in foods such as silicon dioxide. (Calcium stearate, magnesium stearate as well as stearic acid are more commonly included today in dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals serving as binders or lubricants. Recent VRG research on the latter two ingredients also shows that for food and drug uses today, magnesium stearate and stearic acid are vegetable-derived in all cases we could find.)
Here is a list of food products containing calcium stearate. In every case, The VRG was told by company employees in May-July 2015 that their calcium stearate was vegetable-derived. Below the list are more details from the phone conversations and email exchanges we had while researching each product. (We’ve included Tums® products here because they are commonly used.)
Foods That Contain Vegan Calcium Stearate
Glutino’s® Strawberry Breakfast Bars
Dutch Foods® Baked Potato Crisps (ketchup flavor), Salt-n-Vinegar Chips, Rip-L Chips
Rainy Day Foods® Applesauce
Lawry’s® Asian Ginger, Garlic & Chile Rub
Fiesta Spices® products
Cookies Food Products® Flavor Enhancer & All-Purpose Seasoning
Sencha Naturals® Green Tea Mints
The VRG discovered that Tastefully Simple® sells a dry mix called Jalapeño Popper Warm Dip Mix containing calcium stearate but was unable to find out ingredient source information from the website.
We were told on the phone by one company representative that “we need a doctor’s note before our vendor will release source information.” When we replied that our ingredient inquiry was based on ethical reasons as vegans and not any specific health reasons, the representative only repeated her company’s policy about receiving a doctor’s note before any ingredient information beyond what is on a label could be given to consumers.
The Glutino consumer response team initially replied by email that the calcium stearate in their Strawberry Breakfast Bars “is sourced from apple powder.” The VRG found this response puzzling given that neither calcium nor stearic acid (from which calcium stearate is formed) is typically derived from apples on a commercial basis nor are they major constituents of apples. We asked Glutino to check with their food technologists to confirm.
A few days later The VRG received a call and an email from Glutino apologizing for their error. They wrote:
The calcium stearate used in our Glutino Breakfast Bars is [from] a vegetable source. Since it can be a combination of vegetable oils, we do not have the specific ingredient, but it is definitely a plant-based ingredient. So sorry for any confusion in our previous answer.
In early July 2015 The VRG noticed that calcium stearate was no longer listed in the ingredients statement for the bars (Source).
Some Dutch Foods snack products contain calcium stearate including the Baked Potato Crisps (ketchup flavor), Salt ‘n Vinegar Chips and Rip-L Potato Chips.
We called them and were informed on the phone that the “calcium stearate in all products containing calcium stearate is vegetable-derived from corn or canola.”
Rainy Day Foods sells an applesauce that has calcium stearate listed on its ingredient label. A Rainy Day Foods employee contacted their supplier, Tree Top®, who sent a Vegan/Vegetarian Statement about this product:
Dried apples, formulated fruit preps, fruit purees and concentrates are made from wholesome fruit, and do not contain any dairy or animal products. These products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
No beef or animal by-products are used in the processing or production of these products.
Spices and Salt
We contacted McCormick’s about their Lawry’s Asian Ginger, Garlic & Chile Rub.
When we initially wrote to them through their website contact form we received this email response from a consumer affairs specialist:
The calcium stearate in our Lawry’s Asian Ginger, Garlic and Chile Rub is used as an anti-caking agent used for free flowing. It is an additive that makes ingredients blend well together. The main sources it would be derived from are mineral, vegetable or animal.
When we asked if the natural flavors in this product were animal-derived we received this response:
I am sorry, but that information is proprietary. Please be advised this product is not considered vegan. Natural flavors are flavors extracted from natural sources – from the rind, juice, leaves, roots or bark of fruits, herbs and spices. The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractives.
The VRG called McCormick’s for clarification and more information. We spoke with one other consumer affairs specialist on two occasions. During those conversations we learned that there were three different suppliers for the calcium stearate in Lawry’s Asian Ginger, Garlic & Chile Rub. All three had been contacted about their ingredient source. We were informed by email that Lawry’s Asian Ginger, Garlic & Chile Rub contains no animal products and the calcium stearate listed on the ingredient statement is vegetable- based.
The Food Safety Manager at Bolner’s Fiesta Products® responded to our request for information about the calcium stearate in several of their products. He assured us on the phone that the calcium stearate in their products was derived “from a vegetable source.” The VRG asked if he knew which vegetable source was used. The Food Safety Manager checked with his supplier and called us back within minutes to inform us that their “calcium stearate is derived from palm oil.” He also asked if we’d like a complete list and so assembled the following for us:
All of the Fajita Seasonings
Game Fish Seasoning
Lemon Pepper (both salt and NS)
Pico de Gallo Con Limon
Texas Style Steak
The Food Safety Manager of Fiesta Products added: “Many of our blended items will have calcium stearate or silicon dioxide to be used to help prevent clumping.”
Cookies Food Products Flavor Enhancer & All-Purpose Seasoning contains calcium stearate. We called Cookies about their ingredient source and an employee followed up by email: “Just received word that the calcium stearate is from a vegetable source.”
The salt substitute Also Salt contains calcium stearate. We received an email reply to our inquiry about its source and were informed it’s a “plant source.”
Sencha Naturals sells Green Tea Mints containing calcium stearate. We requested source information by email and received this reply:
Our calcium stearate in our green tea mints is not from an animal source. Our calcium stearate is plant-based and our mints are vegan.
The VRG spoke with a representative of Ice Chips Candy about the calcium stearate in their products. Initially we were told that their calcium stearate was “…from a local winery…a by-product of grape processing.”
Doubtful that calcium stearate came from wine processing, The VRG requested that Ice Chips contact the winery for confirmation that it was the calcium stearate that was derived from wine processing and not something such as tartaric acid or cream of tartar which may be derived from wine processing.
We received this email reply from Ice Chips:
I just spoke with one of the Grannies that formulated the Ice Chips.
I apologize for giving you incorrect information, but the calcium stearate is not a product of wine-making (that would be the cream of tartar).
She did not have the exact source we get those from handy, but did assure me that both ingredients have been tested and checked, and are completely vegan. That’s actually something that the FDA allowed us to keep on our tins after double checking our sources.
There are “natural flavors” listed on the Ice Candy tins. The same company representative informed us by email that …all of our flavors are plant-based. We do list “vegan” on every flavor except the three that contain milk.
All of our flavor concentrates/oils are made specially for us by Nature’s Flavors®.
Barkley’s Mints is the only product The VRG has seen thus far on the market that explicitly states the source of the calcium stearate used in their products on the product label. In parentheses after “calcium stearate” appears “vegetable based.”
Smarties candy contains calcium stearate. On the company website there is a vegan declaration:
Smarties ingredients contain no animal products…Our Smarties products are entirely free of meat, fish, dairy and eggs. You can rest assured that the calcium stearate is plant derived, and that no animal products were used in the processing of our candy’s ingredients…
There are some products with the Smarties brand that are not manufactured by Smarties Candy Company. We recommend always checking a product’s ingredients prior to purchase. Additionally, if the UPC number on the packaging begins with “0 11206”, you can be assured that the product is vegan and manufactured in a facility that makes solely vegan products.
Many Tums products contain either calcium stearate or magnesium stearate. We spoke with a product specialist who informed us that there are “no animal derivatives in Tums…magnesium stearate and calcium stearate are not of animal origin…”
Here is a list of Tums products containing calcium or magnesium stearate:
Tums Freshers – cool mint and spearmint flavors
Tums Extra Strength Sugar-Free
Tums Smoothies – assorted fruit; assorted tropical fruit; berry fushion; peppermint flavors
Tums’ product specialist pointed out that one Tums product contains a dairy ingredient: Tums Chewy Delights. This is stated on labels.
This list of foods containing calcium stearate is probably not exhaustive. It is representative of the types of food products that calcium stearate could be found in today. Since The VRG could not find even one animal-derived calcium stearate-containing food product and considering what ingredient manufacturers and suppliers had told us, we consider this a vegan ingredient noted with the caveat that although it is theoretically possible that calcium stearate for food use could be derived from lard or tallow, it is not so on a commercial basis in 2015. For more discussion and support of this classification see: http://www.vrg.org/blog/2015/05/06/anti-caking-agents-including-calcium-and-magnesium-stearate-non-animal-according-to-us-industry/
Animal fat-based calcium stearate does have wide applications in several non-food related industries today including the cosmetics, plastics & rubber, paint & coatings, construction and paper industries although some companies have expressed concern over the safety of animal-derived ingredients.
For a historical overview: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/np/alwayssomethingnew/Animal32.pdf
For more recent information:
http://www.doverchem.com/Portals/0/Stearate%20BSE-TSE%20Statement.pdf (Dover’s site concerns non-food uses only.)
http://www2.mallinckrodt.com/active_pharmaceutical_ingredients/stearates/ (ingredient source listed by clicking on number before chemical name under list titled “Stearates Products”)
The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.
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