An old statement that we eat with our eyes first really holds much truth. Our supermarkets are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables that look like picture perfect paintings. They are designed to attract our attention so we bring them home with us, and boy do they look fresh and healthy. The good looks can be deceiving once we actually eat the product. Apples have always been known to have a natural coating on the skin surface. The coating is a kind of wax, and this has been used on fruits and vegetables since the 1920’s. Coating of apples is done by applying a thin layer of wax either by dipping, brushing or spraying with wax. Normally this coating is considered edible, safe for human consumption. In the fast paced, money making world we live in, it is quite easy to realize that producers have become more interested in mass production and sales than taking the extra health safety measures. They also leave most of the responsibility with the consumer, leaving us to have to wash our produce thoroughly. Surely we should do this regardless, but safety shouldn’t be in question either way.
Apples have their own original coating when plucked directly from the tree. This is a whitish powder on the apple surface and is considered the fruits natural barrier, artificially waxed fruit is a thin layer not powder like, which can be scratch off as opposed to just falling off. The process of washing before being packed into cartons removes this natural coating. Apples are coated with wax for a variety of reasons, preservation, reduce loss of water, increased visual freshness and mostly to replace the natural wax, which helps protect the fruit from shriveling and weight loss. The waxes that are used are referred to as edible coating, being that they will be consumed together with the fruit. The edible waxes that are used are vegetable waxes and can be Carnauba or Shellac which are completely safe to consume not considered harmful. This wax is actually not digested, but is passed through the digestive system.
The waxes that are used to coat apples can consist of animal, vegetable or mineral and synthetic wax. Many producers have been known to use petroleum base waxes to coat apples, which is considered harmful to our health. The state is supposed to enforce the types of waxes that can be applied to fruits. In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees all the waxes that are supposed to be safe. In Kenya , the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBs) is responsible. According to the FDA a federal law requires the United States produce shippers and supermarkets to label wax fruits and vegetables upon selling. Honestly, I have rarely if ever seen any signs at the grocery store reflecting this, but perhaps some locations do have this available.
The reason for waxing apples has been shown, but there is also some disadvantages to this practice. One affect is anaerobic respiration that can occur in the fruits since the wax can act as an oxygen barrier. The wax also makes a great makeup disguise for the apple. Waxed apples look glossy, sleek, shiny, firm and appealing, but inside can be a whole other story. Perhaps can be soggy and lacking crispy texture. Cleaning apples before we eat them is our safest precaution. If water isn’t enough, a drop of vinegar can be a very good cleaning aid. Never use detergents on fruits and vegetables due to their porous construction. An apple a day sure can make our day better, but a little prevention holds the key to healthy foods.