Label Decoder: Pectin

by in Grocery Shopping, Label Decoder, July 1, 2010


You’ve seen it on hundreds of labels and may have even used it in your own kitchen — learn all the need-to-know facts about this additive.

What Is It?
Pectin is a gelatin-like substance that is naturally found in some fruits. It’s often added to jams and jellies to help cooked fruits reach a gel-like consistency. It can also be used to thicken barbecue sauce, cranberry sauce, canned frosting and yogurt. Some homemade jellies may call for high pectin fruit such as quince, concord grapes, currants, raspberries or apples in order to help thicken them. Fruit that is slightly underripe contains more pectin than fruits that have fully ripened.

Commercial pectins can be found on the market in liquid or powdered form. The liquid pectin is made from apples, while the powdered version is made from citrus fruits. Some folks like to use the commercial pectins to speed up the jam and jelly cooking process.

Is It Safe?
The FDA recognizes pectin on their generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list, and numerous scientific studies have found it to be extremely safe to consume.

TELL US: What label terms would you like us to decode next?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (50)

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  8. Elena says:

    I believe all cheeses are made with rennet, which comes from a calf's stomach. The only cheeses that I know of that do not use rennet are those specifically made for vegetarians using oil as a base. Now I am not quite sure the nomenclature, but don't vegetarians not eat anything from animals including milk (Which happens to be the main ingredient of cheese)?

    Here is a site that explains how to make soft cheese without rennet.

  9. tobyamidor says:

    Hi Evan and Elena,
    That is a great question that many folks ask me about. I actually just came back from the supermarket and bought shredded cheese made with vegetable rennet (Trader Joe's brand). Check the label when buying cheese–organic shredded cheese brands like Horizon does not use animal rennet either. Thanks for your comments!

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