Debra Lynn Dadd

Is there formaldehyde in gelatin capsules?

QUESTION:

I have recently heard that the capsules used to package vitamins and herbs are not good for you. Is this true? if so, what is a good alternative to getting the benefits of the these nutrients if not in pill form. It seems difficult when most of us have neither the time or resources for growing our own food.

POSTED BY T. S. :: OREGON USA :: 03/22/2005


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The capsules used to package vitamins and herbs come in different types.

A standard gelatin capsule is made from animal gelatin. This is a by-product of cooking the meat and bones. If you have ever made meat stock for soup, when you chill it, you will notice that it gels. Gelatin, whether sold plain, mixed with fruit flavoring and sugar to make a popular dessert, or made into gel caps is this same gelatin.

There are also vegetarian capsules with are made from plant based cellulose.

Both of these geletins are safe to eat.

The problem with gel caps is they may contain formaldehyde as a preservative.

The Organic Materials Review Institute--an organization that provides certifiers, growers, manufacturers and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing--has a whole twenty-five page review of gelatin that tells everything you would ever want to know about what gelatin and gel caps are made of and how they are made, written in 2002.

At the bottom of page 4 says, "...formaldehydes and other aldehydes can be used to harden gelatin capsules and enable them to pass from the stomach to the intestine...trace levels of formaldehyde may have an adverse effect on the capsule contents," and, I might add, on the person taking the capsule.

Frontier Natural Products Coop, who supplies bulk herbs and gel caps to most natural food stores, offers two kinds of gel caps: non-gelatin vegetarian capsules and standard animal gelatin capsules. Their vegetarian capsules are "completely gelatin-free, starch-free, preservative-free and made from pure vegetable sources." Their standard gelatin capsules contain "beef and pork gelatin, water, and sodium lauryl sulfate." No formaldehyde in either.

As to whether or not any specific brand of vitamins or herbs have formaldehyde in their capsules, you should check with various manufacturers. Usually this information is not given on the label, although I did see one webpage say that their gel caps were "formaldehyde-free". If you want vegetarian or formaldehyde-free capsules, find a product you are otherwise interested in and check with the manufacturer about the gel-cap.

In my experience, companies that use organic or natural ingredients are also inclined to have that ethic extend to other aspects of their products as well. It is likely that organic vitamins and herbs would come in preservative-free caps, and that the caps containing formaldehyde would be used for mass market vitamins.

So, to answer your question, you can probably find good quality organic vitamins and herbs in preservative-free gel caps. And, supplements come in tablet form where the material is simply pressed together without capsules. Some even come in powders and liquids. There are plenty to choose from.

Debra :-)


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