Wax on produce
Why there may be wax on your produce.
Fresh fruits and vegetables contain over 75 percent water. Constant loss of this water starts as soon as it is picked and eventually leads to shriveling, poor texture and poor quality.
To protect against excessive moisture loss, many fruits and vegetables, especially in warm climates have natural wax coatings to help them control loss of water. After harvest, but before the produce is packed and sent to the supermarket, produce may be washed. Whether the produce is washed or not, food processors may add a thin layer of man-made edible wax.
In the United States, waxes have been used on fruits and vegetables since the 1920’s. The United States Food and Drug Administration has the legal responsibility for determining the safe use of food and color additives.
Some produce that may have wax applied includes avocados, oranges, melons, turnips, bell peppers, apples, lemons, limes, peaches, pineapple, parsnips, squash, passion fruit, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, eggplant, grapefruit, tomatoes and cantaloupes.
Waxes help to:
- Retain moisture in fruits and vegetables from the farm to the market
- Retain moisture while in stores and restaurants
- Retain moisture while in our homes
- Stop mold growth
- Protect produce from bruising, shriveling and prevent other physical damage and disease
- Enhance appearance of the produce
The edible waxes are used only in tiny amounts to provide a microscopic coating that surrounds the fruit or vegetable. Wax coatings used on fruits and vegetables must meet the United States Food and Drug Administration food additive regulations for safety. Produce shippers and supermarkets in the U.S. are required by federal law to label fresh fruits and vegetables that have been waxed so you will know if the produce you buy is coated. Watch for signs that say, “Coated with food grade vegetable, petroleum, beeswax or shellac based wax or resin, to maintain freshness.”
Michigan State University Extension advises that all produce, with or without wax, be rinsed well with lukewarm water before eating. For hard-skinned fruits or vegetables, it is recommended that they are scrubbed with lukewarm water. After rinsing well, use a paper towel to dry the produce. Now it is ready to be eaten, cut up or cooked.