What About Waxes

A thin wax-like coating is often applied to some fruits and vegetables after harvesting. This is mainly to keep the produce fresh longer by sealing in moisture.

“Contrary to belief, it is not applied just to make fruits and vegetables look pretty,” a United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association brochure says.

Some fruits and vegetables typically–but not always–coated with wax are apples, melons, grapefruit, peaches, oranges, rutabagas, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes, according to the association.

FDA regulates these waxes, or coatings, as food additives approved or “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption. However, some consumers have concerns about their use. Vegetarians and others who avoid animal products may worry that fruits and vegetables contain animal-based waxes, such as oleic acid. Some people fear that the wax traps pesticides, making the fruit or vegetable unsafe to eat–even though FDA’s pesticide monitoring program indicates that pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables are consistently within acceptable safe limits.

If consumers want to avoid waxed fruits and vegetables, FDA regulations that took effect in 1994 may help them identify the appropriate products for them. These regulations require produce packers or grocers to provide point-of-sale information about the presence of waxes on fresh fruits and vegetables. This information can appear on labels of individual products, packing cartons (if they are used at the point of sale), or on counter cards or signs. The information will say that the product is:

Coated with food-grade animal-based wax to maintain freshness, or
Coated with food-grade vegetable-, petroleum-, beeswax-, and/or shellac-based wax or resin to maintain freshness. If only one of these types of waxes is applied, the label can simply identify the type, such as “vegetable-based.”
FDA also will allow the statement “No wax or resin coating” on fresh fruits and vegetables that do not contain wax.

Besides reading labeling information, consumers can reduce their concerns about waxes by rinsing fruits and vegetables with warm water and, when appropriate, scrubbing with a brush. This will eliminate much of the wax.
In selecting your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the National Cancer Institute recommends choosing:

At least one serving of a vitamin A-rich fruit or vegetable a day.
At least one serving of a vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable a day.
At least one serving of a high-fiber fruit or vegetable a day.
Several servings of cruciferous vegetables a week. Studies suggest that these vegetables may offer additional protection against certain cancers, although further research is needed.

What About Waxes?

High in Vitamin A* High in Vitamin C* High in Fiber or Good Source of Fiber*
apricots
cantaloupe
carrots
kale, collards
leaf lettuce
mango
mustard greens
pumpkin
romaine lettuce
spinach
sweet potato
winter squash (acorn, hubbard)
apricots
broccoli
brussels sprouts
cabbage
cantaloupe
cauliflower
chili peppers
collards
grapefruit
honeydew melon
kiwi fruit
mango
mustard greens
orange
orange juice
pineapple
plum
potato with skin
spinach
strawberries
bell peppers
tangerine
tomatoes
watermelon
apple
banana
blackberries
blueberries
brussels sprouts
carrots
cherries
cooked beans and peas (kidney, navy, lima, and pinto beans, lentils, black-eyed peas)
dates
figs
grapefruit
kiwi fruit
orange
pear
prunes
raspberries
spinach
strawberries
sweet potatoCruciferous Vegetables
bok choy
broccoli
brussels sprouts
cabbage
cauliflower