Cellulose: The food additive made from wood pulp


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Your friends told you that you were crazy when you mentioned that your Taco Tuesday dinner tasted a little bit woody. Finally, vindication.

Many packaged foods — from shredded cheese to ice cream — use such additives as powdered cellulose or tiny pieces of wood pulp, cotton and other plant fibers to block out moisture to keep the product from clumping, among other things. Cellulose is gold for packaged-food and fast-food companies for many reasons

  1. It’s cheaper than flour and other ingredients;
  2. It helps fill out overly produced foods by keeping our creams creamy, our peanut butters thick, and our cheeses clump-free;
  3. It extends a product’s shelf life; and
  4. It’s low in calories (because it’s freaking wood pulp). 


Oh, and demand for the additive is on the rise because countries like China and India are looking for low-fat options for processed foods. We’ll allow you a moment to collect your brain from off the floor, but the correct response is, “EWWW.”

But before you get too freaked out, let’s look at the facts. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration identifies cellulose as a non-harmful additive that is indigestible and often appears to boost fiber content in such foods as breakfast cereal bars. The problem with this additive is that people don’t want to eat something that they know contains wood pulp.

To avoid consuming products with cellulose, simply check their ingredient labels for words like microcrystalline cellulose (MMC), cellulose gel (when it’s mixed with water), cellulose gum and carboxymethyl cellulose. If you’re looking for more foods with a high amount of fiber, you’re safest with fresh fruits and vegetables.

We’re sorry we ruined ice cream for you. Believe us, this hurts us equally as much.