Cellulose gel, occasionally referred to as microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) or simply ‘cellulose’ on some food labels, is a refined plant fiber, most often derived from wood pulp.
Cellulose gel is a universally accepted and plant-based stabilizing ingredient, widely used in foods, pharmaceuticals and specialty applications like personal care products. It is valuable in food applications because it maintains stability through a wide range of temperatures, making products shelf stable and more sustainable.
It is used as a texturizer, an anti-caking agent, a fat substitute, as an extender or emulsifier and as a bulking agent. It is used most commonly in food and pharmaceutical processing. It is often used to as a stabilizer in dairy drinks. It also prevents shredded cheese from clumping and ensures the consistency of pharmaceutical applications in items as common as cough syrups and daily vitamins.
Cellulose gel is derived from naturally occurring cellulose similar to that found in plants, fruits and vegetables. When you eat a stalk of celery, for example, you are consuming this kind of plant fiber. You could make cellulose gel from corncobs, sugar cane or other, more valuable food sources. The crystalline fibers of cellulose gel are more commonly and more efficiently derived from sustainable wood sources. DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences makes cellulose gel from only certified forest sources.
Cellulose gel has a very long history of safe use in both the food and pharmaceutical industries. It has long been approved by global food regulatory agencies as a food additive. Cellulose gel is not digested and passes from the stomach to the intestines.
It is not an organic ingredient. It is universally regarded as a safe synthetic ingredient by food regulatory authorities throughout the world.
If you buy foods that have reduced fat or calories you will often see cellulose gel, microcrystalline cellulose or cellulose listed as an ingredient. It is also used in cheeses, sausage casings and other food and pharmaceutical applications that are common in both your pantry and medicine cabinet.
Cellulose gel reduces moisture loss in cooking and maintains food structure during cooking processes. It also keeps baked goods moist and fresh for longer periods. In pharmaceuticals and personal care products like shampoo it provides stability and texture advantages.