Have you ever wondered why the fruits and vegetables in the bins showcased in the veggie section of your supermarket have that beautiful glow when the light hits them just right? These fruits and vegetables are always an explosion of colors and are really beautifully appetizing.
Have you ever wondered why when you bring your apples or cucumbers home you just cannot get that waxy film off? Well the reason this is the case is that many fruits and vegetables are coated with various “vegetable” grade petroleum and resin materials. You may have noticed way up high in grocery stores or in a conspicuous place a sign posted like the one below:
If not, take a look at your local market and talk to your produce clerk about what the sign(s) means if you are curious. If you don’t see these sign(s) in your grocery store and the store carries produce containing the substances noted in the sign above then they are likely breaking the law.
These waxy, often petroleum-based agents are permitted by the FDA under federal regulation to provide a protective coating on food. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) requires signage like the sign above to be posted for consumer awareness in grocery stores or where food is purchased.
“Waxed fruits and vegetables are subject to the requirements of section 403(i)(2). When in package form, the label shall declare the fact that wax has been applied. When received in bulk by the retailer, it is the retailer’s responsibility to display the food to prospective purchasers either with the labeling of the bulk container plainly in view or with a counter card bearing the required information.”
The FDA encourages that these regulations be enforced by individual states so there may be varying levels of compliance depending on what state you live in. The FDA overall considers these agents as, “Generally recognized as safe,” but I just cannot get rid of that nagging feeling that it is just not right for food to be covered in shellac or petroleum. My mind questions are these agents really safe? Do I really want to be eating these substances? Do I want these substances on produce I am putting into my body to live a more health and wellness oriented life? I realize these materials protect food from damage and may also provide some protection against insects, bacteria and etc but often you just cannot get the wax off even after numerous washes.
We put some products to the test to see if we could wash the wax off even with a produce wash. We found that after applying the product directly to the produce the waxy substance could be reduced significantly after sitting with the cleaner on it for a few minutes and running the produce under water. The cleaning agent is made of vegetable based cleaning agents and ingredients like grapefruit and orange peel extracts so the ingredients in the produce wash were pretty simple.
Overall, what are your options for dealing with waxes and shellac on your produce products. You can use a produce wash (something like what is provided in the link) which will reduce exposure to these substances, you can purchase organic produce which does not contain them, you can often purchase produce in larger quantity bags which I have often found do not have the waxy residue and you can find produce at your local fruit and vegetable stands which often do not have these substances.
Frankly these days I am purchasing more and more produce that have the imperfections I remember seeing in the old days when I was a child. Remember the good old days when potatoes grew eyes a couple of weeks after purchase? I am quite happy with imperfection it just means the produce I purchase is a step closer to the way nature intended.