Until recently, products which contain Shellac were considered by the Vegetarian Society to be vegetarian. It is important to note that there has been no change in the production process for Shellac. There is no change in the ingredients in our products even though they may now not be considered vegetarian. This change is simply because of a change in viewpoint by the Vegetarian Society, which we use as a guide in determining whether or not a product is vegetarian.
Shellac resin is secreted by the female lac bug. Used in confectionery products as a glazing agent, and to reduce moisture loss in fruit. Alternatives include plant waxes. I suppose a comparison could be drawn with beeswax, where it is a substance that is produced by an animal, rather than being of animal origin.
Recently however the Vegetarian Society has changed its guidance, and the following explanation has been taken from their website regarding the change of viewpoint and how it is being phased in to labelling of food products
"In 2021, a new ISO guidance was published (ISO 23662: Definitions and technical criteria for foods and food ingredients suitable for vegetarians or vegans and for labelling and claims). From January 2022, the Vegetarian Society will no longer accredit new products containing shellac with the Vegetarian Society Approved vegetarian trademark. A transitional phase of removing shellac from all existing Vegetarian Society Approved vegetarian trademarked products is now underway, to be completed by 31 December 2023. This period allows manufacturers to phase out packaging / source alternatives to shellac in their products etc. It is important to note that the process of producing shellac has not changed, but the guidance on foods suitable for vegetarians has. During the transition period, anyone who now wishes to avoid products containing shellac should check the ingredients list on the product, in addition to looking for the Vegetarian Society Approved vegetarian trademark.
The female lac insect produces a resin to cocoon the eggs she lays. When the eggs hatch, they eat the female (which dies naturally after laying eggs). Once the newly hatched insects leave the cocoon, it is then harvested to produce shellac. Until January 2022 (when shellac was removed from the list of permitted ingredients), the Vegetarian Society Approved vegetarian trademark was only available to shellac companies that could demonstrate the quality of their lac beetle husbandry."