Wax on Produce
Wax Coatings on Produce - Is it a Concern?
Most organic produce is not waxed. However, organic citrus fruits and, in the winter, organic cucumbers (and occasionally organic apples) are sometimes waxed. A coat of wax is often applied to both conventional and organic lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and tangerines as a protective barrier against moisture loss and dehydration.
The digestion of FDA-regulated food-grade wax doesn’t pose any known health risks to humans, and the actual amount of wax applied to a piece of fruit is miniscule. Even so, organic certifiers rule that wax must be applied to only the non-edible parts of the fruit with the exception of citrus (as the rinds can be used in baking and juicing). Citrus actually produces a wax coating naturally, but, once it’s picked, citrus also undergoes a thorough cleaning, which can damage or destroy the wax covering. If citrus is to be shipped long distance, an insufficient wax coating might mean that the fruit reaches its destination in less than optimal condition, so additional wax is often applied.
Still, there are differences in the waxes applied to conventional and organic produce. Wax for conventional produce contains petroleum-derived ingredients, and it often has preservatives or fungicides in it. Wax is not digested by the human system, but it’s possible that chemicals in the wax may be absorbed by the body. Wax for organic produce, on the other hand, may not be synthetic or contain preservatives or fungicides, and it may not have petroleum-based ingredients. Beeswax, wood resin (collected from the stumps of pine trees) and carnauba (extracted from palm leaves) are allowed, and they can be combined with vegetable oil, vegetable-based fatty acids, ethyl alcohol and water.