Wax on apples
No. The types of wax used on apples in Australia contain wax from shellac and carnauba that are approved for consumption by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand as food additives. Both waxes are widely used in other food products, including chocolate and confectionery.
No. The palm tree that carnauba wax is derived from is called Copernicia prunifera. It is native to Brazil and only grown there.
The palm tree most commonly used to make palm oil is a very different plant called Elaeis guineensis, which is widely grown across certain parts of Asia and is not used in the wax that is sometimes applied to apples and other fresh produce.
There are about 2,600 different species of palm tree.
In December 2016, Woolworths and Coles both stated that in 2017 they would be selling more apples with no added wax. This will make buying unwaxed apples a lot easier if you purchase your apples at these major retailers. Some smaller fruit and vegetable retailers and store holders at farmers’ markets also sell unwaxed apples.
You can wash the wax off apples by very gently rubbing them under lukewarm water with a soft brush. Don’t use hot water because it will ruin your apple and don’t use detergent. But remember, there is no reason to remove the wax from your apples because all the waxes used on Australian apples are food grade and safe to eat.
In Australia, some Corella pears may also have a similar wax applied to them as apples. Stonefruit including peaches, nectarines and plums will often also have a different food-grade wax applied to them. A variety of other fruit that is peeled before eating is also waxed including bananas, mangoes, passionfruit, avocados and pineapples. Citrus also has a wax applied and while citrus are usually peeled before eating, the peel can be safely eaten, zested, grated and used in cooking.
If the apple looks really shiny then it has probably had wax applied. If the apple looks duller in appearance then it may not be waxed. However, some apple growers are getting a nice shine on their apples just by brushing them without the need for additional wax. The best way to determine if an apple is waxed or unwaxed is to look at any product signage that may be promoting the apples as unwaxed or organic (organic apples are not waxed) or ask the retailer.
We don’t recommend anyone peels their apples because there are loads of valuable nutrients that are only present in the skin of apples. If you peel your apples you miss out on all this goodness. The wax on apples is safe so you can eat them peel and all. Or, if you don’t want to eat the wax, you can wash it off or buy unwaxed apples. We always recommend washing apples before consumption however as a matter of general hygiene.
With both major retailers, Woolworths and Coles, selling more apples without any added wax from 2017, it is now much easier for consumers to buy unwaxed apples. Historically, waxed apples became more popular in Australia because they looked a lot nicer compared to unwaxed apples and retailers had previously reported that consumers prefer shiny fruit over dull fruit when making their selection. An unwaxed apple may look duller, but it should taste just as good and it will contain all the nutrients that a waxed apple has.
After the apples are harvested they are taken to the packing shed where they are cleaned to remove debris such as leaves. During the cleaning process the natural wax coating is removed and a thin layer of replacement wax is applied to the surface of the clean apple by either dipping, brushing or spraying the fruit with the required wax. The resulting layer of wax is almost undetectable to the human eye and only a few drops of wax are used to cover the entire apple.
Apple waxes based on shellac produce the shiniest apples, but under certain temperature and humidity conditions start to change and may turn white. So the white coating on the apple may be the shellac based wax, but even when it changes colour the wax is still edible.
There are many different types of shellac because it is a very versatile and useful wax. Different types of both carnauba and shellac are used for other food applications–such as to make confectionery shiny. Shellac is also used for non-food purposes such as to shine wood and French polishing. Carnauba wax can be found in cosmetic products like lipsticks and is used as a coating for pharmaceutical tablets.
Carnauba wax is a plant-based wax but shellac is a secretion from the lac bug. In the natural course of the female lac bug’s life she secretes the most shellac at the end of her life to protect her eggs. During the collection of the shellac both the dead and any remaining living beetles, along with the shellac, may be collected before being separated during processing. While the beetles don’t survive this process, the actual beetles or any part of the animal themselves are not part of the final shellac product. It is really up to individual vegans to decide if the consumption of shellac should form part of their diet or not and look for unwaxed apples, or carnauba waxed fruit which is plant based.