Division of Food science and Technology, SKUAST_K, Shalimar Srinagar
There has been an ever increasing concern of the consumers regarding waxing of the fruits which has generated a sense of insecurity among the consumers while purchasing the fruits from the market when it comes to food safety. Every now and then we can see people discouraging the sale of such fruits which have gained a lot of attention recently, particularly those fruits that have been imported from other countries like Australia, Newzealand, China and United states. Many consumers fear that consumption of waxed fruits can generate serious health issues and are reluctant to opt for the same in the market.
Here my emphasis will be on waxed apple fruits in particular which have penetrated our local markets across Jammu and Kashmir. We often come across beautiful red coloured shiny apples in the market that have been waxed to improve consumer appeal and acceptability. But one should be fully aware that this has been done intentionally with some specified objectives of fetching better market returns.
What are waxes ?:Waxes are simple lipids that are esters of long chain alcohol and fatty acids. With respect to plants and its derivatives like fruits, stems and leaves they are found as coatings where its prime objective is to prevent loss of water due to evapotranspiration.
Why is waxing important?: Wax treatment of fruits is one of the most important post harvest handling operations in commercial horticulture today. They are applied as thin edible coatings on the surface of the fruits either by dipping or spraying technique which essentially improves the post harvest quality of fruit by way of preventing loss of water, reducing gaseous exchange and improving the colour.This can further prevent the weight loss of fruits by 20 to 30 % and maintain freshness.
All the fruits have natural wax coating on their surfaces which normally gets removed during the course of harvesting and handling of the fruit and it becomes imperative for the growers to coat the fruits with wax if they want to improve their biochemical and sensory quality. This also improves the shelf life of fruits. Many fruits undergo waxing operations like apples and citrus fruits being common examples.
Are commercial wax applications safe?: Most of the commercial wax applications used today are generally edible coatings applied on the fruit surfaces and are classified as food grade waxes. It should be borne in mind that food grade waxes that are commercially applied today as post harvest treatment on fruits are considered safe and are approved by Food safety and Standard Authority of India under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare under proper label declaration as provided in Regulation 2.4.5 (44) of Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) regulations (FSSAI, 2011). The only thing here is that it should be within permissible limits as specified.
The food grade waxes commercially applied today are either carnauba or Shellac based and both being derived from plant (Palm) and insects (Lac bug) respectively. Both products are approved all over the world. Common commercially applied food grade waxes include Waxol W, Waxol O, Waxol G, Stay fresh and Semperfresh.
However there have been reports of some allergies in people who consume wax coated fruits. But then again we may say that is not a health issue because one can be allergic even normal foods which we consume.
Is it advisable to remove wax from fruit before consumption?: It is not necessary to remove the fruit waxes before fruit is to be consumed as they are edible coatings. But for those consumers who want to eat fruits without wax they are advised to wash the fruits with lukewarm water. Preferably a solution of water and vinegar (few drops) can be prepared to remove waxes faster from fruits.
Commercial food grade wax application is the indispensable part of the modern post harvest management practice adopted today commercially with numerous benefits associated with its use when it comes to quality and consumer acceptability of the fruits it should be adopted across Jammu and Kashmir as well.
—The author can be contacted at [email protected]