Science Questions

How safe is the wax on apples?

Sun, 7th Feb 2010

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Question

Ace, America asked:

How safe is the wax on apples? I end up eating up to a kilo of apples some days. What bugs me is the wax that covers the apples, to supposedly preserve them. How safe is this? What actually is it?”

Answer

This was answered by Yor_on on our forum...

"If you walk into an orchard, pick an apple from a tree, rub that apple on your shirt, you’d notice that it shines, and that’s because you've just polished off the natural waxes and also yeasts that the apple produces in order to protect its high water content.  And without that wax, fruits and vegetables would end up going all dry and nasty.

After they've been harvested, apples get washed and brushed to remove leaves and field dirt, and then they get packed in cartons for shopping to your market.  This process removes some of the fruits original wax coating that actually protects the fruit.

So the apple packers re-apply a commercial grade wax, and one pound of that wax can cover as many as 160,000 pieces of fruit.  So in other words, two drops of it on each apple.  The waxes have been used on fruits since the 1920s.  they're all made from natural ingredients certified by the US Food and Drug Administration as safe to eat and they come from natural sources such Carnauba that wax, the leaves of the Brazilian palm, Candelia wax, which is derived from a reed-like dessert plant of the genus euphorbia and also food grade shellac."

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Ace asked the Naked Scientists: Hi naked peeps! This is ace, from Ithaca, USA. I am an apple lover and on some days, i end up eating more than 2lbs (1kg)! Anyways, what bugs me is the wax that covers the apples to supposedly preserve them. My question is: - How safe is this wax? - Is it beeswax or synthetic? - How can I get rid of it instead of using a blade and grate the skin? I heard people use vinegar, but I cannot see any change. Thanks and kudos on the show! Ace What do you think? acekyle, Tue, 2nd Feb 2010

"If you walked out into an orchard, picked an apple from the tree and rubbed that apple on your shirt, you would notice that it shined – you've just polished the natural wax that an apple produces to protect its high water content. Without wax, fruits and vegetables like apples would lose their vital crispness and moisture through normal respiration and transpiration – eventually leaving them soft and dry (yuck!).

After harvest, apples are washed and brushed to remove leaves and field dirt before they are packed in cartons for shipping to your local market. This cleaning process removes the fruit's original wax coating, so to protect the fruit many apple packers will re-apply a commercial grade wax. One pound of wax may cover as many as 160,000 pieces of fruit; perhaps two drops is the most wax covering each apple.

Waxes have been used on fruits and vegetables since the 1920s. They are all made from natural ingredients, and are certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be safe to eat. They come from natural sources including carnauba wax, from the leaves of a Brazilian palm; candellia wax, derived from reed-like desert plants of the genus Euphorbia; and food-grade shellac, which comes from a secretion of the lac bug found in India and Pakistan. These waxes are also approved for use as food additives for candy and pastries. (Now you know why your chocolate bars melt in your mouth but not in your hand…)

The commercial waxes do not easily wash off because they adhere to any natural wax remaining on the fruit after cleaning. Waxed produce can be scrubbed with a vegetable brush briefly in lukewarm water and rinsed before eating to remove wax and surface dirt. (Using detergents on porous foods like apples is not recommended!) " yor_on, Tue, 2nd Feb 2010

wow! thanks for the informative post. never knew apples had a natural wax. anywho, i still frenetically scrub my fruits and veggies from the wax since often time, pesticide residues get trapped between the fruit and the wax.
a.k acekyle, Thu, 4th Feb 2010

Indeed - thank you yor-on for a fantastic answer - I used it - acknowledging you - on the show this week.

Chris chris, Tue, 9th Feb 2010

Thanks for this....


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