Oh humanity, we are being poisoned yet again by those evil food corporations, who are spraying our apples with tons of toxic chemicals and pesticides, that’ll turn you into a cancerous mutant if you eat them. We must alert everyone to the latest undeniable proof video, that shows just how serious the problem of toxic additives in our apples is!
Or so the latest viral video of someone pouring boiling water on an apple, and showing all the stuff that comes off, claims. If you haven’t seen the video, the experiment is simple… you can do it yourself at home if you like. Just get a nice red apple, one of those that you find at your local supermarket, pour boiling water over it and watch what happens. All sorts of white gunk starts to come off the apple (you might have to let it sit for a couple minutes). Oh dear… what’s all that white gunk? Pesticides? Chemicals? Styrofoam from the shipping materials?
Well, no. It’s actually wax. A little bit of natural wax and a few microns of food grade wax.
There’s no toxic sludge on your apple, and the “experiment” doesn’t actually tell your anything aside from the fact that you shouldn’t pour hot water on apples (unless you’re cooking them or something). To actually say anything from a scientific point of view, you’d have to take that white stuff and pass it through chemical analysis (chromatography maybe).
And even then you’re probably just going to get the obvious answer: it’s wax compounds, with a bit of apple skin, and maybe an insignificant amount of soap or dust.
Wait… but why is there wax on my apple in the first place?
The first reason why there’s wax on your apples, is because the apple made it. Just like you have oil on your skin, an apple grows a layer of wax on its skin all by itself. The wax helps protect it against spores, pests, and keeps moisture trapped in the apple skin. When the apple comes off the tree, the coating becomes thicker: the apple is still alive and will keep protecting itself by producing wax.
And not just apples. Lots of fruits produce their own wax coating to help them survive while they’re on the tree and when they fall off.
Then there’s a coating of food grade wax that’s sometimes applied to the apples. This, unsurprisingly, is known in the food industry as “waxing”. When you put an apple through the washing process required to ship it, you strip the natural wax on the skin. If you leave it that way, the apple can more easily be affected by the stuff I mentioned the wax helps with.
Plus, when you when you pick an apple from the tree, you cut off the flow of natural nutrients that keeps it alive and well, and everything starts to go downhill for the apple. Oxygen comes in, starts to react with apple, causing changes in color and texture. If you wash the apple, strip the natural wax, and leave it that way a few days later you have a brown, bruised apple that nobody wants to buy.
As a proof of concept, I took a regular old pear (I didn’t have any nice red apples handy) and one of those bagged cheap apples and poured hot water over them, stripping the wax. The result a couple of hours later?
Doesn’t look too appealing huh? And as you can see, there’s white marks on the fruit, indicative of the wax that came off. The fruit is perfectly fine and edible, but oxygen got to the skin, and browned it in a matter of hours. That’s why you put a wax coating on fruit to seal it, when you ship.
There’s no pesticides in that wax. Remember that waxing occurs after the fruit has been washed. Any residue of pesticides will probably have come off with the natural wax, and got left behind at the mill.
Is fruit wax poisonous? Does it cause cancer?
One of the biggest misconceptions that this viral “apple wax” video is helping to promote is that waxing is somehow dangerous, or of course, that it causes cancer. Because we all know that chemicals are dangerous and unless you’re paying $18 a pound for “organic” produce, you’re going to get cancer, right?
When hell freezes over maybe.
Think of wax in the same way you think of oil. There’s natural wax, synthetic wax, wax from plants, wax from animals. There’s harmless wax, and not so harmless wax.
Just like oil: if you down a shot of motor oil, you’ll probably end up at your doctor’s office. But down a shot of olive or canola oil, and (if you can stand the taste) nothing really important will happen. And you can cook your food in olive or canola oil all you want, and it won’t harm you.
“Wax” is a general term for a whole bunch of chemical substances, both natural and synthetic. And just like with oils, there’s edible waxes, which are perfectly safe to consume. Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking otherwise.
Food-grade wax means exactly that: food grade. It’s meant to be eaten, and if you eat it, nothing’s going to happen. Most food grade wax, in fact, doesn’t get digested and doesn’t put anything into your body. It just passes through. And there’s countless medical and scientific studies that show food grade wax is perfectly safe and nothing to worry about.
In fact, you’ve probably been eating balls of wax all your life. When was the last time you had a piece of chewing gum? The base of chewing gum is, you guessed it, wax. If there was anything dangerous about wax in the human body, we’d be seeing hospital rooms full of people, poisoned by chewing gum. Yet, we don’t. Because edible wax is harmless.
On top of all that, you have to consider that waxing puts a layer of wax that’s only a fraction of a millimeter thick on the fruit. The amount of wax you’re eating in your apples is, by all measures, insignificant. You get more wax in your average piece of chewing gum than you do on an apple.
If after all that, you’re still nervous about wax on your food, then by all means… wash it off. Just do the same thing as in the video: pour boiling water on your apples, pears, cucumbers, and them maybe go over them with veggie wash. Do it right before you eat the fruit though, or else a couple of hours later you’ll find a not-so-appealing browned piece of fruit.
So go ahead, and eat your apples, oranges, pears, and all your favorite fruit. And don’t go spending $20 for “organics” that promise they have no wax on them, you’ll be paying a whole bunch of money, to avoid something that’s perfectly harmless and natural in your food.