Is 903 vegan?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is 903 vegan?” and will discuss the chemical composition of 903 and will also discuss the hazards associated with the use of Carnauba wax (903).

Is 903 vegan?

Yes, 903 is a vegan. 903 is also known as Carnauba wax. Plant-based polymer derived from the Carnauba palm (Copernicia cerifera) and allied species native to Brazil.

The main contributors to the total anticipated mean exposure to carnauba wax for toddlers, children, adolescents and adults were fruits and confectionery. For toddlers fruits and confectionary contributed to 64-96% and 12-18% exposure, respectively, for children these contributions were 47-79% and 12-18%, for adolescents 44-81% and 11-19%, and for adults 60-93% and 11%, respectively. For the elderly, the main contributors to the total anticipated mean exposure to carnauba wax were fruits (79- 95%) (4).

Origin of Carnauba Wax

Unlike other waxes, carnauba wax is completely natural. The wax is extracted from dried palm fronds and refined before being used. The hue of pure wax is yellow.

 The “tree of life” of northeastern Brazilian savannas, the carnauba palm is a fan palm that produces a wide range of beneficial items. The tree may grow to a height of over 14 meters after 50 years of growth (45 feet). Round, light green leaves cover a substantial portion of the plant’s crown, which is densely packed.

 Carnauba wax is secreted on the top and lower leaf surfaces of the carnauba palm’s meter-long (three-foot) fronds during the dry seasons in northern Brazil. From September to March, the leaves are gathered and dried in the open air. Melt, filter, and chill the wax once it is beaten out of the dried leaves. With age and manufacturing quality, this product might be yellow or brownish-green in color. The carnauba leaves are externally coated by a waxy coat. This wax is possibly a consequence of the adaptation of the plant to dry regions, since this waxy material prevents excessive water loss, keeping the balance within the plant, as well as protecting it against fungi attack (1).

Esters of long-chain alcohols and acids make up the majority of the wax. It may be melted at temperatures as high as 185 degrees Celsius.

Carnauba wax is the hardest wax and has the highest melting point of any commercial natural wax, has low solubility and is predominantly comprised of aliphatic esters and diesters of cinnamic acid. It is currently authorized by the FDA and the FAO. In food it is used as a glazing agent, body or bulking agent, acidity regulator, carrier, and anti-caking in surface treatment of other functions (1).

Chemical Composition of Carnauba Wax

Fatty acid esters (80-85 percent), fatty alcohols (10-16 percent), acids (3-6 percent), and hydrocarbons make up the rest of the composition of carnauba wax (1-3 percent). It contains 20% esterified fatty diols, 10% methoxylated cinnamic acid, and 6% hydroxylated fatty acids. It also contains minerals, such as Na, Ca, Mg, K, Fe, Al, Mn and Zn. 

The structural and physico-chemical composition of carnauba wax is similar to beeswax, but differs in proportions. While carnauba wax is composed of a vast mixture of chemical compounds, beeswax is composed of 71% long chain fatty acids linked to esters and alcohols, 15% long chain hydrocarbons, 8.5% fatty acids free, presents 591M mass media, insoluble in water and its appearance is solid at room temperature (1).

Uses and Advantages

82-86°C (180-187°F) is the melting point of carnauba wax. It’s practically insoluble in water and ethanol, yet it’s tougher than concrete. It is safe and does not cause allergic reactions. A high-gloss finish is possible.

Food, cosmetics, automotive, and furniture waxes and molds for semiconductor devices are just a few examples of the various uses for which this material may be used. Carnauba wax is widely used in the food industry as a structurant for chocolates, fruit and vegetable coating and cheeses, as well as the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries (1). A product that contains carnauba wax is one that you use every day without knowing it or its origins. It’s one of those rare natural compounds and renewable resources that doesn’t have a synthetic alternative.

The wax in my vehicle does have a definite sweetness to it, but it isn’t candy-like. Many vehicle waxes and sweets may smell like carnauba wax.

Carnauba wax uses as a food additive

When used in cooking, the food additive serves a specific purpose.

·         Regulates the acidity or alkalinity of a food product. In sensory evaluation, acidity and astringency decreased in fruits treated with wax (1).

·         Filler – A material that enhances the volume of meals but does not dramatically alter its energy content. It may be used as an alternative to palm oil in order to control the consumption of saturated fats in confectionery products, especially hazelnut fillings (2).

·         When a food additive or nutrient is applied on a surface that may be easily handled and applied, it is known as a carrier. Carnauba wax is used as a carrier for vanillin (1). Waxes have also been used extensively as carriers for various types of drugs in pharmaceutical applications (3).

·         It is a material used to provide food a shining look or to preserve it from the elements, such as a glazing agent. Carnauba wax is used as a glazing agent in chocolate and confectionery products and in bakery products (1). 

–        It is used to surface coat fruits in order to extend their shelf lifes, as an efficient substitute for shellac or beeswax, which are of animal origin. Guavas, oranges and plums were successfully coated with carnauba wax preparations and had their post-harvest shelf life increased (1).

Hazards of Carnauba wax

Naturally occurring carnauba wax is usually considered safe for human consumption (whether orally or through the surface of the skin). This is because it is not absorbed by our system. It doesn’t interfere with our biological processes since it just passes past us. Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Panel concluded that “the use of carnauba wax as a food additive with the presently allowed usage would not be of safety concern.”

This natural emollient is hypoallergenic and natural since it is made up of natural alcohols, fatty acids, acids, and hydrocarbons, all of which are naturally occurring. However, some people have reported experiencing allergic responses even when the wax is in its natural condition. Health problems linked to wax appear to stem mostly from this. According to studies, carnauba waxes are considered hypoallergenic and sensitizations or irritations related to them are uncommon. However, a reported case noticed a dermatitis in the eyelid caused by a mascara. The presence of carnauba wax and low density polyethylene was detected in the tests (1).

Wax is also a source of irritation for certain people because of the cosmetics it appears in, such as mascara and eyeliners. The melting point of gels may be raised by using this component in some cosmetics, according to a study. Eyelid oil glands get blocked as a result of the wax coming into touch with the eyes. Irritation and, in rare situations, dry eye illness might result.

The signs and symptoms of dry eye illness may range from scratchy or itchy eyes to more significant ones like a burning or blurred vision. Because of a lack of tears or moisture on the eyeball’s surface, the problem occurs. If it persists, it might become a chronic problem, and no one would want to have to deal with that.

Besides, in-vivo toxicological studies such as, sub-chronic toxicity and reproductive and developmental toxicity showed no adverse effects related to the ingestion of carnauba wax. There are no available studies on the chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity of carnauba wax. In general, the committee considered that there was insufficient data on the toxicity of carnauba wax in the long term and therefore has not established an ADI (1).

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In this brief guide, we have answered the query, “Is 903 vegan?” and discussed the chemical composition of 903, and also discussed the hazards associated with the use of Carnauba wax (903).


  1. de Freitas, Claisa Andréa Silva, et al. Carnauba wax uses in food–A review. Food chem, 2019, 291, 38-48. 
  2. Mandu, C. C., et al. Waxes used as structuring agents for food organogels: A Review. Grasas Y aceites, 2020, 71, e344-e344.  
  3. Milanovic J, Manojlovic V, Levic S, Rajic N, Nedovic V, Bugarski B. Microencapsulation of flavors in carnauba wax. Sensors (Basel). 2010, 10,901-912. 
  4. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific Opinion on the re‐evaluation of carnauba wax (E 903) as a food additive. EFSA J, 2012, 10, 2880.