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Stamp and Envelope Glue, Is It Safe?

Stamp and Envelope Glue, Is It Safe?

In a 1996 Seinfeld episode, George’s fiancé Susan licks so many cheap envelopes (George bought them for the wedding invitations) that she poisons herself. Makes for riotous TV, but fortunately these days, or even back then, licking envelopes -- and stamps -- was never such a risky business.

There was a time in the 1960s when the gum on U.S. stamps shielded bacteria and viruses, so they could survive for months. That meant you could, theoretically, pick up a bug from an envelope you received. And back then, if you were licking stamps for 100 wedding invitations, it wasn’t a bad idea to count your calories! Glue on a postage stamp could deliver around 6-14 calories!

Most stamps and many envelopes don't take a licking anymore. They're self-adhesive. Among the few water-activated stamps left, no animal products are used in making the glue (they’re vegan); those in Israel are certified Kosher; and in the U.S., lickable envelope glue is made from corn, so it’s gluten-free! If you wonder about the safety of imported glues on greeting card envelopes, for example, the FDA has increased its presence in China to enforce quality standards. And you can always use a damp sponge instead of your tongue.

But if you’re looking for surprising stamp sensations that can make your RealAge younger (great aromas do that), try these: There’s a cacao-oil infused Belgium stamp that tastes like fine chocolate, a coffee-infused Brazilian stamp, and a Swiss stamp that smells like chocolate.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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