Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Cellulose acetate (packaging) and Ethyl cellulose (packaging)

The GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database allows access to opinions and conclusions from 115 SCOGS reports published between 1972-1980 on the safety of over 370 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) food substances. The GRAS ingredient reviews were conducted by the Select Committee in response to a 1969 White House directive by President Richard M. Nixon.

Cellulose acetate (packaging) and Ethyl cellulose (packaging)

SCOGS Report Number: 25
NTIS Accession Number: PB274667*
Year of Report: 1973
GRAS SubstanceID Code21 CFR Section
Cellulose acetate (packaging)9004-35-7182.90
Ethyl cellulose (packaging)9004-57-3182.90

SCOGS Opinion:

Cellulose is a major constituent of many foods of plant origin. As such it is a significant portion of the diet, but is neither degraded nor absorbed. Cellulose derivatives considered in this report are virtually unabsorbed and little or no degradation of absorbed and little or no degradation of absorbable products occurs in the human digestive tract. In man, consumption of large amounts appears to have no effect other than providing dietary bulk, reducing the nutritive value of such foodstuffs and possibly exerting a laxative effect. However, the existence of certain data and the different categorization of cellulose and the several cellulose derivatives on the GRAS list suggest that the Select Committee should render a separate opinion on each substance considered in this report.


There is a paucity of data concerning possible adverse health effects of ethyl cellulose and cellulose acetate. both are included in the GRAS list as substances migrating to food from paper or paperboard products used in food packaging. According to the NRC survey (6), very small amounts of ethyl cellulose also appear to be used in hard candy and chewing gum. In the GRAS context, the quantity of ethyl cellulose or cellulose acetate migrating to foods from packaging would be orders of magnitude below the levels of cellulose and cellulose derivaties now known to occur in foods.

In the light of the foregoing, the Select Committee concludes that:

There is no evidence in the available information on ethyl cellulose and cellulose acetate that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect, a hazard to the public when they are used in food packaging materials as now practiced or as they might be expeccted to be used for such purposes in future.

*Complete reports containing details of the safety studies that formed the basis of the opinions and conclusions and are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 605-6000.

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