What is it Wednesday: Ester of Wood Rosin

So since this month’s challenge is to read the ingredients of things you eat, I thought I might start a new series of posts called “What is it Wednesday.”  I’ll take an odd sounding ingredient and figure out what it is and then post about it.

This week the topic of discussion is Ester of Wood Rosin.  I said in the comments on Monday’s post that I found this weirdo in my Fresca.  It kind of freaked me out.  I think it was the words “wood” and “rosin” specifically.  Although wood is natural, I’m not sure I want it in my pop.  Rosin makes me think of baseball, when the pitcher uses the rosin bag on the mound, or gymnasts who use rosin to keep their hands from getting slippery.  Um, ew?

So what is ester of wood rosin?  Wikipedia calls it glycerol ester of wood rosin and says it is a food additive used as an emulsifier and stabilizer.  Wisegeek says it is commonly used in citrus-flavored sodas and other fruit drinks.  But why is it added?  Wisegeek actually has a great explanation, which I’ll try to paraphrase.

The fruit flavored oil in citrus flavored soda does not mix well with carbonated water.  It’s like oil and vinegar.  If you let it sit still, it will separate.  The addition of the wood rosin allows the flavored oil to remain suspended in the water, so the soda has a consistent taste. 

Ester of wood rosin is actually collected from the stumps of trees!  However drinks only contain trace amounts of the stuff.  If you want to read Wisegeek’s full explanation, please click here (it’s not very long).

Wisegeek and Wikipedia also says that glycerol ester of wood rosin is made from or similar to ester gum.  There is a lot more information about ester gum online. has this definition of ester gum:

“–nounChemistry. any of several hard resins produced by the esterification of a natural resin, esp. rosin, with a polyhydric alcohol, chiefly glycerol: used in the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and lacquers”

Manufacture of paints, varnishes and lacquers?!?

I checked out the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website on food additives to get a final verdict (scroll down to the “G” section).  They did not have a section on ester of wood rosin or ester gum specifically, but they did have a section on gums in general.  It said that gums are derived from natural sources such as bushes and trees and are probably safe.  They are not absorbed by the body.  They have gums in general on their safe list.  They also have glycerol listed as a safe ingredient.

After learning more about ester of wood rosin and ester gum, what do you think?  Does this information make you want to avoid foods with this additive?  Or do you think it sounds okay? 

For me, even if it is natural and safe, it’s still an additive.  It’s not meant to be in our food.  I don’t drink a lot of pop so I don’t come across this guy too often anymore.  I will still drink a Fresca from time to time (I love that stuff) but not as much as I used to.

What are your thoughts?


8 thoughts on “What is it Wednesday: Ester of Wood Rosin

  1. Yuck…..Makes me glad I’m in the same category as yourself and rarely drink soda/pop.
    I got a book out from the library awhile back called “Healthy Life Kitchen” by Marilu Henner. She has a whole section on various additivies and how damaging they are to ourselves and our family. Please keep these posts coming.

  2. I don’t drink Fresca or citrusy pops, but that is pretty interesting. This is a really cool series that you’re doing – I remembered how grossed out I was when I happened to read the back of my son’s favorite drink and saw that it had vegetable oil in it. Um, eew! Shortly after that, I started cooking more from scratch.

  3. first, I love that you did so much research. I would avoid food with additives. I do my best to read food labels and know what everything is. It just scares me otherwise. I do still sometimes crave a Cheez It, but when I think about the fact that it’s a zombie’s easier to avoid it!

  4. I have it in Potato Salad Seasoning by Watkins. The same company that makes vanilla (adds, Propylene glycol) and cinnamon. Nice to know what this stuff is, thanks for the blog.

  5. This is really cool! As a PhD chemist I can attest to the safety of these food additives. Everyone these days seems to think “chemicals” are bad yet everything is composed of “chemicals”. This is a really clever use of chemistry to create a consistent product.

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