Shiny apples look great in the grocery store, and some seem to gleam more than others. You might have wondered why some look so shiny. Some people are rightly concerned if any artificial coating could be harmful.
Apples often have a wax coating. A coating is produced naturally by the apple to protect it from damage and spoilage. When apples are picked, this coating is washed off so producers will often reapply a food-grade wax coating.
This makes the apples shiny so they look appealing and also last longer in storage and on the shelves – some apples brown faster than others.
But how do you tell if an apple has been waxed and is it safe to eat this wax coating? I decided to find out and put answers to these important questions about waxed apples in this article. Read on to find out what I discovered.
Why Are Apples Coated With Wax?
When an apple is still growing on the tree it forms a coating that protects it from spoiling, even after harvest. It appears like a white, chalky covering. These protective benefits include:
- Inhibiting mold growth: The wax helps stop mold from growing on the apple’s surface.
- Protection from bacteria: As well as stopping mold from growing, the wax helps stop bacteria and other microorganisms from getting in.
- Retaining moisture: The wax stops the apple from losing moisture so that it stays fresh and juicy.
- Delays ripening: The protective shield formed by the wax means the apple is less exposed to air which helps slow down the ripening process, even after picking.
After harvesting, apples are washed to remove any traces of dirt and chemical residues, removing the natural wax layer. Producers often spray on a new coating of wax before the apples are shipped which retains most of the benefits of the original protective coating.
It also prevents the skin from bruising and makes the apple look shiny and appetizing.
Studies have shown that the wax coating helps to prolong the shelf life of apples. It’s believed apples with a wax coating can last up to twice as long as unwaxed apples.
How Can You Tell If An Apple Has Been Waxed?
When you look at an apple, unless it’s really shiny, it’s pretty difficult to tell if it has been waxed or not. However, there are a few giveaway signs.
One way is to try rubbing the apple with your fingers. If the apple feels sticky or waxy, then it has likely been waxed.
Another way to tell is to hold the apple up to the light. If you can see a thin film on the surface of the apple, it has probably been waxed.
You can also try running your fingernail over the skin of the apple. If the apple has a wax coating a small quantity may build up under your nail.
What Is The Wax Coating Made Of?
The most common type of wax sprayed on by producers is made from carnauba wax. This is a natural wax that is derived from the leaves of a Brazilian carnauba tree, a type of palm.
Other types of wax that are sometimes used on apples include paraffin wax, shellac, and beeswax.
Although we don’t usually eat paraffin and shellac, the amount used is minute and each piece of waxed produce has minuscule amounts of these coatings.
The wax coating that naturally forms on apples is made from a variety of different chemicals and is often referred to as “bloom” as it usually appears white or milky. This waxy layer is a combination of up to fifty different compounds, the majority of which fall into a category of chemicals known as esters.
Is The Wax Coating on Apples Safe To Eat?
There is some debate about whether or not eating waxed apples is safe. Some people worry that the chemicals in the wax may be harmful.
There is no evidence to suggest that eating waxed apples is unsafe. In fact, the wax coating on apples is not digested and simply passes through the body.
The US Food and Drug Administration has actually approved a variety of food-grade waxes for use on fruits and vegetables.
The only exception to this is if you have a bee allergy. In this case, you should avoid eating apples that have been coated with beeswax.
There is a video circulating online where someone pours boiling water over an apple, resulting in white splotches forming. The message of the video is that it’s unsafe to eat waxed apples as they still have residues of pesticides on them, which is inaccurate. What it actually shows is just the heat cracking the wax coating, allowing air to get in between the skin of the apple and the waxy layer. Due to the way these air pockets reflect light, they appear as a patch of white on the skin.
Should You Clean The Wax Off Of Apples?
As the wax is safe to eat, there is really no need to try and clean it off apples before consuming it. They only need a quick rinse to wash off any dust or dirt that has stuck to the surface.
You can choose to wash your apples more thoroughly if you choose with not much extra effort.
If you are concerned about eating waxed apples, you can simply wash them with warm water and a brush or cloth. This will remove most of the wax layer.
It is important to note though that by doing this you are removing the apple’s protective coating so it’s best to only wash the fruit just before eating.
The alternative is to peel the apples, especially common when cooking the apples. I wrote more about whether you need to peel apples for cooking here.
How Do You Remove Wax Coating From Apples?
To wash apples, scrub the surface under running water with a brush or cloth. This removes the waxy coating and any dirt on the apples. You can use cleaners designed for washing fruit but avoid regular soap.
Washing fruit with dish soap or other commercial soap is not advised because the fruit can absorb some of the taste and chemicals. Fruit flesh is porous and so it will absorb some of the soap. It doesn’t taste nice or do you any good!
You can buy products specially designed for washing fruit. They are cleaning fluids that consist of vegetable-based acids and oils to break down the wax on fruit and vegetables and are safe. Check out this Veggie Wash on Amazon.
Do Organic Apples Have Wax Coating?
As organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, they often rely on natural methods to protect their crops. This includes using a natural wax coating made from USDA-approved ingredients.
The waxes that can be used in the U.S.A. for organic apples are:
Carnauba wax – this is made from the leaves of a carnauba palm.
Wood rosin – this is extracted from two specific species of pine, Pinus Elliottii, and Pinus Palustris.
All fruit should show the type of wax used on their label so check before buying to make sure your fruit is truly organic.
Only apples that are labeled as “Unwaxed” can be relied on as containing no wax coating.
I hope you’ve found this article about whether apples have a wax coating useful.
Many apple producers do add a waxy coating and if you pick one straight from the tree, it will almost certainly have a natural wax layer.
But if you’re concerned about eating waxed apples, you can rest assured that they are safe to eat.
I think the benefits of waxing apples seem to far outweigh any potential drawbacks. If you just don’t want to consume something that producers have sprayed on after harvesting simply wash it off before eating.
However, if you’d prefer to avoid waxed fruits and vegetables altogether, you would have to look for products that are labeled “unwaxed.”
Many people think that purchasing organic apples will mean they are not coated, but as I found out, this is not true.
The important thing is to continue enjoying apples as part of your diet as they have many health benefits.
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