Animal By-Products on Fruits & Vegetables

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Animal By-Products on Fruits & Vegetables

As vegans, we try our best to avoid all animal products in our diet so it might come as a shock to learn that the waxes on most fruits and vegetables found at your local grocery store contain animal by-products!

Waxes are used in the agriculture industry to help preserve fruits and vegetables by delaying ripening, preventing water loss, maintaining color and reducing fungal growths; all of which help to improve appearances on store shelves.

There are a several different types of waxes used:
• Carnauba wax which is derived from palm trees
• Petroleum based waxes such as paraffin, mineral oil, and polyethylene
• Shellac wax or lac resin which is derived from the glands of the lac insect
• Bees wax

 Although plant and petroleum based waxes initially do not contain animal ingredients the oleic acids and emulsifiers such as stearic acid in the finished wax product can be animal derived. For most waxes proteins are added to create thickness which is usually soy or casein (milk protein) based but they can also contain chitosan which is derived from the exoskeletons of crustaceans.

The Government of Canada announced on February 14, 2011 that food labelling regulations are being revised requiring that manufacturers of pre-packaged products clearly identify allergens such as soy, gluten and casein. The revised regulations should make buying packaged produce less of a guessing game but that still leaves unpackaged produce unaccounted for.

So what is the best way to avoid these waxy coatings? For now your best bet is to shop at your local farmers markets where you can ask the grower if the produce has had wax applied. But not everyone has the option to shop at farmers markets (especially all year round). Alternatively, when shopping, check the signage; there should be signage stating if a wax is used or ask a store clerk to check the packaging it arrived in if it is still available.  In the case of some fruits and vegetables you can peel the wax away with the skin or rind however where this isn’t possible or desired a simple wash can help:
1. Fill a clean sink or basin with warm water. Add 2 tbsp. of baking soda and 1 tbsp. of lemon juice and stir to mix.
2. Soak the vegetables in the mixture for a few minutes. Scrub the vegetables gently with a soft-bristled brush to remove the wax.
3. Rinse the vegetables in clear water to remove the baking soda and lemon juice. Lay the vegetables on towels to dry. If wax remains on the vegetables, try soaking them again for a few more minutes.


4 Comments

IslaKay

March 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

That’s disgusting. Thanks for the heads up!

Becci

March 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I had no idea. Good post!

Lindsay

March 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

The wax on fruits has always grossed me out!

IslaKay

March 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

Me, too. Waxy apples are sick.

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