Wax Coating on Fruits & Veggies
photo by Martin LaBar article by Chelsea Boissonneault
Many fruits and vegetables make their own natural waxy coating to help retain moisture because most produce is 80 to 95 percent water. After harvest, but before the produce is packed and sent to the supermarket, it is repeatedly washed to clean off dirt and soil. Such extensive washing also removes the natural wax. Therefore, waxes are applied to some produce items at the packing shed to replace the natural ones that are lost. Waxes are applied for the following reasons:
- help retain moisture in fruits and vegetables during shipping and marketing
- help inhibit mold growth
- protect fruits and vegetables from bruising
- prevent other physical damage and disease
- enhance appearance
Wax sources generally are plants or food-grade petroleum products.Some waxes can be made from dairy or animal sources, but we are not aware of any such coatings being used on fruits and vegetables in this country. Waxes can not be washed off, so the only way you can avoid it on an item that has a coating is to peel that fuit or vegetable which is not that easy for example with peppers.
But it is not just the wax itself that may be of concern but the other compounds often added to it – ethyl alcohol or ethanol for consistency, milk casein (a protein linked to milk allergy) as "film formers" and soaps as flowing agents.
So buy organic when you can afford to and when you can't try to find out from your grocer which fruits or vegetable have a wax coating if you can't tell by looking/feeling them.