What's up with waxy fruit — are they safe to eat?

Originally Published: April 2, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: October 31, 2008
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Dear Alice,

I get the apples provided by the John Jay Dining Hall everyday and have noticed that they are completely coated with wax. (Scratching the surface produces white flakes.) I was wondering, how harmful is the wax if I eat two or three apples a day?

Dear Reader,

Good question to wax on. And kudos to you for eating lots of fruit!

Are apples and other fruits coated with wax okay to eat? Yes! According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the wax is natural, non-petroleum based, and approved for use on all kinds of foods.

Just-picked produce, including apples, are coated with wax by Mother Nature to help prevent them from drying out and becoming mushy. Before these products are delivered to markets for sale, they are washed and rinsed of dust and chemical residues, but about half of the original wax coating is lost during this cleaning process. As a result, FDA-approved natural wax is added to make sure that produce is protected during transport, storage, and sale, as well as to make them look more appealing and appetizing. Your apples may seem smothered in wax, but about one to two drops of natural wax is all that's added to each apple. Amazingly, one pound of the wax used in this process may actually cover up to 160,000 pieces of fruit.

Wiping and washing produce before eating or cooking it is recommended to help remove dirt, a certain amount of bacteria, and, yes, some of the wax. You can use regular tap water to accomplish this task, or you could even try one of several new fruit and vegetable wash products on the market.

How're them apples now?

Alice