Fruit Wax Ingredients Revealed: What’s on the Wax Covering Your Fruit?

Do food allergy sufferers need to worry about fruit wax?

Fruit wax coverings have been hotly debated by organic, vegan, and food allergic bloggers over the years. I’ve read extensively on the subject and decided to put to rest some long standing rumors on what’s really in or not in fruit wax coverings. I think the conversations on fruit wax and the fears some consumers have are legitimate. Unfortunately, finding out what’s sprayed on our fruit is tricky business. Many formulations are proprietary, meaning their ‘recipes’ are secret. And because the US government doesn’t classify these wax sprays as a food substance, it doesn’t have the same labeling regulation as our packaged food products, organic products, and meat products.

Do food allergy sufferers need to worry about fruit wax?

Are they filled with toxic chemicals that are harmful to our kids? Let me tell you what I’ve discovered.

Why is Produce Covered in a Wax Coating?

Well, there’s nothing like a fuzzy apple loaded with bruises.

Eck.

Fruit farmers need a solution to protect their produce beyond the harvest season. Fruit wax is used as a preservative to keep apples, oranges, cucumbers, and other produce from going bad.  Fruit wax seals in moisture, and when you sell fruit in the off season you need to keep it fresh. Waxes also make fruit look more attractive. Wax creates a shine and protection from browning. On average produce that’s been sprayed will have a 50% longer shelf life.

Manufacturers claim consumers prefer shiny waxed fruit, and in many cases it’s sprayed for cosmetic reasons rather than by necessity. But fruit wax can also prevent fungi from growing on produce if it has fungicides included in the formulation. So certain food products that tend to grow mold quickly may get sprayed to lengthen shelf life.  Folks who buy in season and locally from farmer’s markets will not see wax coatings on their produce.

Most organic produce is not waxed, either, as a rule. However, organic citrus fruits and out of season organic cucumbers and organic apples can be waxed.

Are There Health Risks From Eating Fruit Wax Coatings?

If you are buying conventional non-organic fruit you need to be more concerned about pesticides, I think. As part of the harvest process, produce is cleaned before it is sprayed with a fruit wax coating. But some argue that a layer of pesticides get sealed in under that fruit wax covering. I decided to do some fact checking and discovered this is true. I focused on apples especially, since apples top the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen™ list of most pesticide-contaminated produce. And they are a favorite in school lunch bags across the country. Pesticides showed up in over 98% of samples the group tested and there were over 48 different kinds of pesticides on them. Some samples included chlorpyrifos, which is known to cause ADHD and lower IQ.

Yikes.

Certain pesticides are known neurotoxins, which means they affect a child’s development and brain function. Infants are more at risk from pesticide toxicity than older children and adults because they can’t detoxify these chemicals.

Commercially made fruit wax coatings often use caranuba wax, shellac resin, and an emulsifier. Learn whether or not traces of gluten, dairy, soy, or corn can be found in fruit wax coatings.

I recommend you buy organic produce, but it’s not always affordable. Make a commitment to buying just organic apples, if you can. If you choose to buy organic apples you will greatly reduce your child’s exposure to pesticides.

Ingredients in Fruit Wax Coatings

So what’s all the fuss about fruit wax, anyway? A lot of folks believe the stuff harbors trace amounts of gluten, dairy, and soy in it. I learned that this is both true and false. Yes, there are formulations with these three allergens out there. I don’t believe they are currently being manufactured commercially. You will find a lot of research studies and test studies on fruit wax formulations with these ingredients, which may be reason for the hype in the past.

Heather Jacobsen at Stuffed Pepper did extensive research in 2012. She says, “based on my conversations (with experts in the field) and what I read, I would say that my waxed produce most likely does not have gluten in it. It also seems that the use of casein and soy in waxes are extremely rare, especially in North America.”

Coatings manufacturers guard their trade secrets and are tight-lipped about their ingredients. There is a big science in wax coatings. Fruit wax can be either natural, like carnuba wax, or they can be petroleum based. Some are also coated in shellac resin which is secreted by the female lac beetle. A lot of vegans are very vocal about this, as it is an animal based product being sprayed on produce.

Conventional Wax Coatings

In conventional produce additional ingredients are added to the wax such as morpholine oleate. This compound is used to spray the wax onto the fruit. Scientists claim that only trace amounts are left on the wax after it is applied. Ethanol can also be used in conventional fruit wax. Ethanol is an alcohol produced by yeast from sugars. It’s the same ethanol that is used in beer production. And in the US it is mainly derived from corn. Archer Daniels Midland Co. is one of the world’s leading producers of ethyl alcohol. They derive it from conventional corn (likely GMO, too). Conventional fruit wax sprays also contain preservatives, and fungicides. They can sometimes contain dyes, too. Conventional wax coatings are not digested by the body. But the chemicals in the wax can be absorbed by the body.

Organic Wax Coatings

On the other hand, organic Fruit Wax Coverings cannot be synthetic, contain artificial preservatives or fungicides, and cannot have petroleum-based ingredients. Beeswax, wood resin, and carnuba wax from palm trees are allowed. These ingredients are often combined with vegetable oil, vegetable-based fatty acids, ethyl alcohol and water. Ethyl alcohol can be made from sugar beets or sugar cane, but in the US it is most likely derived from corn.

Some Brand Name Fruit Wax Coatings:

Tal-Prolong: This fruit wax coating consists of sucrose esters of fatty acids and carboxymethylcellulose. It has been effective in delaying the ripening of banana. It is also used to coat apples.

Syncera: Uses an anionic water based emulsion rather than petroleum for wax coating products. They use carnuba wax, shellac resin, and polyethylene (which is vegan but corn derived). Their three products coat citrus fruits and are found in some chewing gum and some cheese products.

Semper Fresh: This produce coating product is used for apples, pears, melons, avocados, cherries, plums, bananas, and more. This product contains sucrose esters of fatty acids, monodiglycerides, and carboxymethylcellulose. This product is similar to Tal-Prolong.

If you’ve done additional research on food wax coverings please let me know. This is an ongoing research project, especially since there are many companies not listed here with proprietary blends on the market.

Conclusion:

If you are buying wax covered produce and worried about ingesting the coatings you can wash it off at home. Although, there may be residues left, it’s still a better option than eating the wax coating. Scrub your apples, oranges, and cucumbers with a brush under running water. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests using baking soda as a mild scrubbing agent to help remove dirt and wax. The World Health Organization suggests lemon juice can also provide safe and effective cleaning for fruits and vegetables.  A bath of clean water mixed with several drops of grapefruit seed extract is an effective cleaning method for delicate fruit like strawberries and blueberries.

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8 Comments on Fruit Wax Ingredients Revealed: What’s on the Wax Covering Your Fruit?

  1. i bought an organic apple Daisy Girl Organic apples and sliding a sharp knife came out a great deal of wax…. which i dont trust what is inside that wax so now i will scrape with a knife every apple i give to my son and after this bag of apples i will not buy apples from that brand or from u.s. anymore… rather choose fruits that we can peel of and eat it without any sh… being put on it.. im 40ish and when young fruits were brown and we ate then and they didnt had a third of the sh.. they put on food for comestic freshness and thats what it is most sheeple consumers feel ewww and panic when they face real fruits a little bit brown or similar … well just cut the brownish parts thats it or eat like we did is the past: fresh or little bit ripped …. i refuse from now on to pay and consume fruits which have being sprayed not to mention that some “food” factories irradiate real radioactive radiation on food … sick … and they call their products organic… bs.

  2. Great article and definitely an area of concern. I don’t feel secure about the information because I’ve read about the fungicides and casein they use and I wonder, what else are they putting on there! I’ve certainly never seen a sign that says ‘this fruit or vegetable has been waxed’. The question is which are waxed and which aren’t? I saw a company called Eat Cleaner posted a before and after of their washed apples and the difference between the washed one and the one that was waxed was amazing! I bought some and tested it out and it really works. Now I’m using it on everything and it is pretty incredible how much better my produce tastes too. Just thought I’d share.

  3. I’m allergic to fruit wax stuff. It makes my mouth feel like it’s all over. Sort of a numbing effect. Takes several minutes to settle down. Sometimes makes me sick, and nauseous. And have thrown up. I peel my apples, unless I get them fresh locally. I noticed the same thing after some grapes I purchased. I really don’t want to peel my grapes…

  4. Stop puting fake red color to apples.This is cheating people and can be carmin that is a smashed beetle or worst a cancerous chemical that produce mutations in DNA.Stop shellac is not vegan at all and synthetic waxes.Only vegetal waxes should be allowed,no gluten,no fake color.Make all food organic.Fruits and vegetables are not candy and should be as natural as possible.Take the shellac and animal waxes from coffee and corn or seeds too.Thank you

  5. ….started to read your site…but I am getting so tired of the font color used lately on so many sites…..have you ever heard of black ink ??? just like the one that shows as I write these words…???
    So why is everyone using BEIGE FONT on white background….not even considering that there are folks who can’t see so well and whose eyes get tired squinting to read this beige print…??? or did you run out of black ink ??? In order for me to read this I have to literally copy/paste your text into MSWord where it comes up normally as black font on white background …….Really …not today !! !

  6. Hi Caryn,
    Great article. Thank you for sharing your research. I stumbled across it while looking for information on fruit coatings due to a recently discovered allergy to honey and beeswax. I’ve been paying attention to which products I seem to react to and in addition having some question marks around apples and cranberries I am also wondering about grapes, wine, and carnuba wax, even though I understand carnuba wax has nothing to do with bees, that I have so far seen anyway. I’d love to know if you have any more information on beeswax or carnuba wax coatings.

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