The TRUTH About Fruit Wax

The TRUTH About Fruit Wax


Hello lovely people – after our last “How Does it Grow?” episode on cucumbers, I got a lot of questions about how and why some
foods are waxed after harvest; and what that’s doing to our food. So let’s take a
deep dive, shall we? If you check out a fruit or vegetable
while it’s growing, you’ll notice it has its own natural waxy coating. That
coating serves a few purposes, but the most important are: 1. It prevents water
loss; 2. It protects from hungry fungi and bacteria. Now, as we discovered in our blueberry episode of “How Does it Grow?”, if you rub that coating off, the shelf life
of the food shrinks significantly – because produce breathes and sweats.
Seriously – fruits and vegetables let out carbon dioxide, water and heat through
their skin. Don’t worry, as plants they let out way more oxygen than they do
carbon dioxide – ten times the amount. But even after they’re picked, fruits and
vegetables are still very much alive, breathing and sweating – which eventually
leads to them shriveling and spoiling. It’s their natural waxy coating that
slows down that inevitable demise. Well what do we do down at the farm? We take
our freshly picked produce and we wash it at the packing house to get rid of
dirt and soil borne bacteria, pesticides fungicides, and oops, there goes that terrific natural coating. Right, so then we take our squeaky clean
produce and we send it down the line to be sprayed or dipped in a solution that
dries into a new protective coating; and of course these coatings are
supercharged – they not only slow down spoilage and fight off fungi, they add
shine. Because we humans sure do love our shiny things…These new coatings can do all these things because they’re not just
one substance; they’re a cocktail of things. Most food coating companies guard their formula, but they typically include a wax to lock in moisture, a fungicide to
keep the food from going moldy, and an emulsifying chemical to ensure the
solution goes on evenly. So let’s look at the waxes first. In the synthetic camp,
you have petroleum-based waxes, including: paraffin, mineral oil, and polyethylene –
the most commonly used plastic in the world. On the USDA Organic approved list
are: carnauba, which is scraped from the leaves of the carnauba fan palm in
Brazil, and shellac a resin secreted by tiny Lac bugs in Thailand and India.
There’s also wood rosin that’s made from solid resin from pine stump wood and
candle Lea wax from a North American desert shrub. Oh, and organic beeswax, if
you think back to our orange episode of “How Does it Grow?”, farmer Bill of Sundance Organics chooses to use beeswax on his organic citrus. Okay, so we’ve got the wax
in the coating, sealing in moisture. Mixed in with that are fungicides.
Fungicides are chemicals that kill fungi who love to eat the same produce we do
what we call fruit rot is a full-blown fungi fiesta. To finish off our coating
cocktail, we have emulsifiers – chemicals added to
bring all the ingredients together for an even consistency. Morpholine is the
main one on the synthetic side. It’s a chemical compound in the form of a
colorless liquid, with a fish-like odor. The FDA in the United States gives it a
thumbs up, but EU regulators give it a thumbs down. So US farmers who cook
their produce with morpholine can’t export it to Europe. The problem with morpholine doesn’t seem to be with the compound itself. It’s
with a chain reaction that can occur in our bodies if nitrates are present when we ingest the morpholine. The two together can form a carcinogen – something that promotes cancer. Where the nitrates came from – well – that could be from drinking water contaminated with fertilizer, or eating
sausages preserved with nitrates, or simply eating lots of leafy greens which
are vegetables high in nitrates. So this is why Europe says no to morpholine; but then the US Canada and many other countries are cool with it, because they
consider the amount of coating that goes on each piece of produce to be
insignificant. All of this brings to mind a little anecdote that I was told by
Bill, our organic citrus farmer, and it’s always stuck with me he said…hang on…why don’t I just get him on the line! (Nicole): Hi Bill,
(Bill): How are you Nicole? (Nicole): I’m here with my YouTube audience I thought it would be really interesting for them to hear the
story that you once told me. (Bill): Sure, I never ever allowed kids wedges of lemons or limes and oranges in their drinks, because they’re dosed with 6 or 7 different chemicals. I mean if they preserve the fruit for 6 months’ time and then allow them to be shipped after that, imagine the strength of the chemicals they must be putting in there. Beyond produce, there are unique coatings that are meant to extend the shelf life of other foods, like eggs or nuts sold without their shells, even
candies, where the coating adds a nice dazzling glossy finish. The prevalence of
all these waxy coatings just reminds me how far our food travels and how long it has to stay fresh. We get blueberries from Chile, pineapples from
Costa Rica, bananas from Ecuador…Even here in the United States, I live on the
East Coast, and so much of the produce in my local stores comes from California,
something like 3,000 miles away. Our global food system depends on food
lasting longer than ever before. Okay so maybe an even bigger question is: Should I buy organic produce to avoid morpholine and petroleum-based stuff
on my food? Well, the whole organic versus conventional debate is a lot to tackle.
There are multiple threads to explore, all really important – at least to me – so
I’m going to do a separate video all about understanding organic food and the choices that I make for me and my family. So if you want to get the alert on that
video make sure: 1. You’re subscribed; and 2. You hit that bell icon. Oh and
3. Let me know your food questions, and maybe we can do a video on that! Bye guys!