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Why Do Many Beverages Include Wood Rosin?

Hardened wood rosin.
Soda containing wood rosin.
Fruit-flavored beverages and drink mixers often include wood rosin.
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One of the most ominous sounding ingredients in a fruit-flavored beverage is glycerol ester of wood rosin. Indeed, there is actually a trace of real wood rosin in many citrus-flavored sodas and other fruit drinks. There is a perfectly good explanation for its presence, and it has to do with the age-old idea that oil and water do not mix.

In order to achieve a pleasing and authentic fruit flavor in a water-based beverage, manufacturers often use flavoring oils derived from citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes. These flavoring oils are very concentrated, and must be balanced out with sweeteners before a beverage becomes palatable. The problem is that fruit oils do not mix well with carbonated water or even natural fruit juices. The flavoring oils would simply float on top of the beverage, even after vigorous stirring or mixing.

This is where the wood rosin enters the picture. It is collected from the stumps of long-leaf pine trees, then mixed with other ingredients to form a thickening agent called ester gum. Ester gum is often used to thicken or stabilize food products such as chewing gum or ice cream, but would be too thick for beverages. When the ester of wood rosin is combined with glycerol, however, it is suitable as a stabilizer.

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Although water and oil do not mix, they can be blended into an emulsion. Mayonnaise, for example, would be an emulsion of oil and either vinegar or lemon juice using egg yolk as the emulsifier. In the case of fruit-flavored beverages, the addition of glycerol ester of wood rosin allows the fruit oils to remain in suspension when blended with water. This means that a can of orange-flavored soda would have a consistent orange flavor, not a layer of orange oil floating on top of carbonated water. Without the rosin as a stabilizer, the flavoring oil would eventually separate and the beverage would become unpalatable.

There is no evidence that wood rosin poses any sort of health threat to consumers. Federal regulations prevent more than 100 parts of rosin per million, which essentially means there is only a trace amount of it in a typical can of citrus-flavored soda. There are other stabilizers approved for use in beverages, but manufacturers consider glycerol ester of wood rosin to be the best and most natural option.

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anon946336
Post 40

I am allergic to this. It gives we unbearable eczema.

anon353744
Post 39

I guess it's all in how it's synthesized. I take Pychnogenal, which is another derivative of pine. I take it for my joints and I love it. Of course this is organic, and perhaps a different version of what wood rosin is. This just sounds bad and will not drink anything but my soda stream carbonated water.

anon344090
Post 38

The problem is if you are newly allergic to colophony, finding the products that contain it and do not contain it is next to impossible. It goes by so many different names, it is hard to figure out if it is in the ingredients or not.

I read it's in fruit flavored drinks, not in the ingredient list of Dr. Pepper and not in the list of ingredients of Breyer's ice cream, but they use tara gum to thicken it. I am very allergic to this chemical and am having a terrible time figuring this out.

anon340362
Post 37

It sounds like this is the same pine resin as used for making Greek Retsina wine, which according to one online source, has been drunk for over 2000 years. Pliny the Elder notes "resin from mountainous areas [as] having a better aroma than those that come from lower lands".

anon315884
Post 35

I can live and be happy without drinking Gatorade

and other drinks with that in it. We now have over 70,000 new chemicals in our lives, and I chose to eat or drink as few as possible.

I stopped eating crackers, etc. that had TBHQ, which is the same butane used in the lighters. And we thought that smoking was bad. I guess we are what we eat and drink.

anon307967
Post 34

There are three sources of rosin:

1) Wood rosin, extracted from pine stumps.

2) Gum rosin, obtained from live pine trees.

3) Tall oil rosin: obtained by distillation of a sub-product of paper manufacture.

All three are regularly esterified with glycerol, and all three esters are approved for the manufacture of chewing gum and adhesives in contact with food.

Of these three, only one is approved as a beverage additive: the one made with wood rosin. There is only one wood rosin manufacturer: Hercules Inc. (now called PINOVA). Hercules (PINOVA) is the company that originally got the product approved, many years ago, and the market is simply too small for any other manufacturer (of gum rosin or tall oil rosin) to go through the paces of getting it approved for that use.

Glycerol esters rosin are products which are categorized by the FDA as "generally recognized as safe". Please note that when you talk about glycerol esters of wood rosin, you are talking about a product which only one manufacturer is authorized to sell.

If you analyzed a good quality glycerol ester from any of the three sources without knowing its origin, you would be unable to determine which one of the three is in your hands. I know. I manufactured gum rosin esters for many, many years.

anon279236
Post 33

The whole situation is odd. About 20 years back I started noticing certain digestive reaction to orange soda. It always seemed to clean me out in a hurry. Then I looked at the label. Ester of wood rosin stared back at me like the culprit and I knew I'd found the cause.

A few years later, I found one or two other flavors of soda that had the same effect and lo and behold, they contain the same wood rosin.

Nowadays, after avoiding this ingredient for years, whenever I need a cleaning out, ester of wood rosin to the rescue!

anon263104
Post 32

Every time I eat or drink anything that has it, I get migraine-like symptoms: severe headaches, nausea, and sometimes blurry vision. I would never say that it's not a threat to consumers.

I'm only 23 and I remember as a child being able to drink all of my favorite orange or grape flavored sodas with no problems, because they didn't have glycerol ester of wood rosin. I only drink soda once or twice a month these days, when I go out, and it stinks knowing that I can't order the beverage that I want at a restaurant for fear that I will have to spend the rest of the day in bed writhing in pain. What has changed in the last 10-15 years that now requires its use?

anon244418
Post 31

When people need to scientifically and legally describe what goes into food, they have to use a name that describes exactly what is that they're adding.

The more 'natural' the substance, the more complicated-sounding the name. That is because *life* is a lot more complex than anything we can come up with in a lab in food-grade, commercial quantities that would taste good. It does not mean that someone in some lab like a modern-day Clark Griswold is doing frankenstein-stuff to your food.

Just get over it.

anon231752
Post 30

What people don't realize is that even though this substance occurs naturally in pine trees, that it does not mean that it is a naturally occurring substance in soda. It has to be chemically processed in some way to extract exactly what the producers want, and that is where the problem lies.

What extra chemicals are used, and how much of those chemicals are going into my body along with the glycerol esther of rosin? I don't believe for a second that anything that has to be processed is natural in any way. Just saying...

anon174742
Post 29

Thanks for the clear, understandable explanation. I had a pine allergy as a child and am still sensitive to it, and did not know until now that the wood rosin actually came from pine. This helps explain the food poisoning-like effects after drinking certain sodas. I'll avoid this in the future by reading the labels more carefully.

anon169127
Post 28

I worry about what I ingest, so I naturally looked it up. Wow, so did a lot of other people. As long as people have been ingesting this stuff, if there were even the remotest threat, we would know about it. If it is limited to 100 ppm, that number probably came from a combination of research of how much of it is needed to achieve the desired affect, and how much of the stuff someone might have to ingest for it to be dangerous. I drink soda chock full of it, eat things full of all sorts of things the health nuts inform me are going to kill me all of the time.

I am nearly 50 and in much better shape, physically and mentally than anyone I knew who were 50 while I was a child. I do the right things, such as looking up ominous sounding chemicals in my food and drink, and take pretty good care of my general health. My kids have a good long wait before they get any money from me... hmmmm, I guess I should say that it will be a good long time before I will not be alive to give it to them.

anon166993
Post 27

People who are scared of this: Glycerol ester of wood rosin is not harmful to you. An ester is a classification of organic molecule. Esters are most noted for their (usually) pleasant smells. As a matter of fact, the aromas of banana, hazelnut, and vanilla are all esters (along with many others).

Glycerol just gives you a "sub-class" of ester (it is an ester with a gycerol group on it.) The fact that it is "of wood rosin" just tells you where it's attained.

So let me reiterate. It's not dangerous. especially at only 100ppm. and if you drink a hundred cans of soda with this, it's still at 100ppm. that parts don't add up (look it up if you don't believe me.)

As for the "allergy" people. I am allergic to so many things. So what do I do? I read the ingredients for basically everything. why? because i want to be safe. Food doesn't need warnings for every allergen. Or any at all! You just need to read the ingredients.

Health freaks: It's not bad for you. Just because something is a chemical doesn't mean it's bad. Natural doesn't mean anything either.

Nicotine: Natural/Bad

Methamphetamines: Synthetic/Bad

Glucose: Natural/good

Acetaminophen: Synthetic/Good

anon158720
Post 26

it's far better than high fructose corn syrup -- a man-made sweetener added to many products in the 70s to enhance the flavor in foods. the problem is that your body doesn't recognize this. it shuts off the natural appetite control switch. you can down a 2 liter bottle of soda and won't even recognize when you've had enough. prior to this product being available. your body would know it's had enough and stop. this has greatly contributed in making america a fat nation. weird huh?

as for tree rosin: if it concerns you, choose a cleaner product.

anon144424
Post 25

So it's tree sap. And people think it's bad. I guess that means maple syrup is the number one killer in the country today. Boycott anyone who serves waffles! Tree sap haters unite!

anon131716
Post 23

Obviously, if you have allergies, you should be constantly aware of what they are, reading labels, living a strict life of what you can and can't ingest, and realizing your life stinks. sorry, not everything is meant for everyone (i can't smoke clove cigarettes, drink chai, or have pumpkin pie so i know how badly it stinks to have something that your body just can't take).

As for you health nuts, you're all going to die. Geot over it. if you enjoy drinks that have ester of rosin, more power to you, like the guy said, it naturally comes from pine trees, and if you don't like it, stop being a brat to everyone that does, and get over it.

if you even passed chem 1 in high school, you would know that what he's saying about mixing water and oil is 100 percent fact, and that the liquids require a way of being joined.

Also, if you have ever lived in a major city, you would know that there are in fact more chemicals in your tap water than there are in most sodas, so try not to freak out the next time you wash your food or take a shower.

so thank you paranoid america. after all, your government is trying so very, very hard to kill you.

anon125946
Post 22

O.K., now explain, for the chemically-challenged (etc.), how we get "glycerol ester of wood rosin". First, there was the tree, then someone said, 'let there be wood', and so we had wood, and it was good. Did they have to do anything but cut the wood from the tree? Like chemically pulp it or something?

Then someone said, 'I want rosin from the wood' and somehow, they made rosin from wood.

Then yet another someone said, 'I want ester of wood rosin,' and looking around and finding no one named Ester, they took wood rosin and made some, again, somehow. (I'm not a chemist.)

Then Ester decided she wanted to marry Glycerol, and how do you marry Glycerol with Ester (of wood rosin)? Some 'natural' chemical process? Anyway, they did marry, and had little ones.

And now, we all have a little Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin, naturally. Take good care of yours (they like a little fruit oil with water.)

anon103798
Post 20

I love it! Thanks for the explanation! Many years ago, I noticed it on a can or a bottle and joked, "You know, it's that hint of ester of wood rosin that really does it for me. I couldn't drink it without it."

Turns out I'm not joking, after all.

anon88672
Post 19

Poison ivy and nettles are natural, and so is snake venom and peyote cactus. Just because a chemical is synthesized naturally doesn't mean that is it beneficial an organism (or the human body).

Let's focus on the facts. Yes, it is safe to consume at very low levels. At worst it might cause very low, low-level negative health effects. Is that worth it just so you can have a flavored drink with a more uniform taste? Some would say yes.

I just try to avoid the chemical when I can.

This stuff is also sprayed on raw vegetables.

But, probably most important, the machine used to produce this substance is way more carbon neutral than a factory somewhere producing a man made alternative.

anon80010
Post 18

Most of you commenters don't seem to be listening. This ingredient is not some random chemical! It is about as natural of an ingredient as it gets. It comes from pine trees.

And if you think its weird drinking something from a tree, consider this: That coffee that you likely drink every morning is just a bunch of ground up tree seeds mixed with water. Does that sound good when you really think about it? Certainly not to me.

When I think of eating natural, trees seem to me to be about the most natural thing there is.

anon77249
Post 17

This is the clearest, most concise explanation I've found online. Thank you! I am allergic to glycerol ester of wood rosin; I feel light-headed and short of breath--similar to being drunk.

Not too bad a reaction, but I still avoid it because I never know when I might go into severe anaphylactic shock. It's really a shame because Squirt is the most amazing soft drink.

anon71481
Post 15

Squirt rocks! I guess I like pine trees in my soda!

anon62036
Post 14

"Without the ester of wood rosin as a stabilizer, the flavoring oil would eventually separate and the beverage would become unpalatable."

until one shakes it before use.

anon51388
Post 13

@anon51090, an ester is a classification of organic molecules.

anon51090
Post 12

what is an ester? i don't understand.

anon49915
Post 11

My daughter is allergic to the additive of ester of wood they have started to put in fruit flavored pop. Her throat starts to feel like it is closing up her airway. This has happened three times now and each time her reaction is worse than the last one. She has had to take an antihistamine and her asthma inhaler right away to help her breathe. They need to put a warning on the label regarding this. There have to be others who also are allergic to it.

anon45542
Post 10

3 drinks @ 100ppm keeps the rosin in the same ratio. 100/1,000,000 = 300/3,000,000

anon37929
Post 9

All I know is it tastes funny. I feel crappy after I drink soda containing this. With all these chemicals in my food and drinks, well I think I'm gonna live forever. I say let's preserve and chemicalize everything. When I die I wanna be preserved like a TasteyKake. Those darn things just won't mold. Something strangely odd about that. Ester of wood rosin and a Krimpet in a blender. I could drink these 3 times a day and live forever.

anon35302
Post 8

sounds like hogwash to me.fruit flavored sodas 20 or 30 years ago didn't have it and tasted a lot better.be careful what the system tells you.don't believe it all.

anon34591
Post 6

What if someone were allergic to the particular tree or wood used to make the wood rosin? An allergic reaction could be life-threatening and people wouldn't necessarily know to look in their soft drinks or carbonated beverages for wood-related allergens.

anon17640
Post 5

What about this product causing metabolic acidosis? If it is the same as wood alcohol then this would be the case, and this can be detrimental to athletic performance let alone health and wellness.

anon14801
Post 3

That was the clearest, most complete, exact, and satisfactory answer I have found while searching the net in a very, very long time! Thanks!

anon14088
Post 2

If only 100 parts per million are allowed, then anything over is bad. So, what if you consume three drinks containing 100 ppm each within one hour? Does your body eliminate the rosin as usual, or is there a potential for dangerous build up? Does this pose a threat to our digestive tract, liver, or anything else? With the rise of cancer, it seems that ingredients that do not naturally occur in our diet may pose a danger...?

anon13320
Post 1

great explanation. I always wondered what it was. Pine trees are natural, so I feel better about drinking some traces of it

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