Apeel – saving food waste, good idea or bad science?

Understanding Apeel and Its Implications

What is Apeel and how does it work to extend the shelf life of produce?
Apeel is an edible, tasteless, odorless, and colorless coating applied to fruits and vegetables to slow down water loss and oxidation, thereby extending shelf life.

Who founded Apeel Sciences and what funding did the company receive early on?
James Rogers, Ph.D., founded Apeel Sciences in 2012 with a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What produce items are currently being treated with the Apeel coating?
In most of the world and places that follow the E.U., citrus, avocados, pineapple, papaya, bananas, mango, pomegranate, and melons are treated with Apeel. In the U.S. and the rest of the world, all fresh produce is eligible without restrictions.

Where can consumers find Apeel-treated produce and how can they identify it?
Apeel-treated produce can be found in several large grocery chains in the U.S., including Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Harps Food, and many others, as well as stores in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, and Canada. Apeel-treated produce can be identified by looking for the “Apeel Protected” produce sticker.

Can the Apeel coating be washed off the produce?
No, according to Apeel’s website, their coating cannot be washed off the produce without causing damage. It is designed to adhere to the surface of the fruit or vegetable.

Should consumers consider peeling the skin of Apeel-coated produce when possible to reduce exposure to the coating?
While peeling the skin off Apeel-coated produce could potentially reduce exposure to the coating and any associated contaminants, it is unknown whether the Apeel coating may penetrate beyond the peel into the flesh of the fruit or vegetable. More research is needed to determine if removing the peel is an effective way to avoid the coating.

Health and Safety Concerns

Are there any known side effects or health risks associated with consuming Apeel-coated produce?
While Apeel and its ingredients are considered generally safe by regulatory agencies, some potential health concerns have been raised. These include the presence of trace amounts of trans fats, the use of mono- and diglycerides which may impact gut health, and the potential accumulation of heavy metals and other toxic contaminants from the manufacturing process. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term health impacts of consuming Apeel-coated produce.

What long-term studies have been conducted on the health impacts of consuming Apeel-coated produce?
According to available information, Apeel Sciences has not conducted or published significant long-term studies on the safety and nutritional impact of consuming their coated produce. The lack of such studies has been noted as a concern by some critics.

What carcinogenic contaminants may be present in Apeel’s coating?
Potential carcinogenic contaminants in Apeel’s coating include epichlorohydrin, palladium, cadmium, and arsenic, according to reviews of the ingredients.

Why are mono- and diglycerides, key ingredients in Apeel, concerning from a health perspective?
Mono- and diglycerides are often used as replacements for trans fats, which were banned by the FDA for being linked to heart disease. They still contain some trans fat but avoid the ban due to being classified as emulsifiers. They are also derived from polyunsaturated fats which may be harmful.

Environmental and Production Concerns

How are the chemicals and ingredients in Apeel sourced and processed?
The chemicals and ingredients in Apeel, such as glycerolipids (derived from vegetable oils), mono- and diglycerides, esters, amides, thiols, carboxylic acids, ethers, aliphalic waxes, alcohols, salts (both inorganic and organic), and alkenyl groups, are processed using solvents like heptane or ethyl acetate. These ingredients undergo various chemical processes, including the use of heavy metals and trans fats, to create the final product. There is concern about whether the plant materials used are genetically modified (GM) or sprayed with chemicals like glyphosate.

What are the potential environmental impacts of Apeel on soil ecology and microbiomes?
The potential environmental impacts of Apeel on soil ecology and microbiomes are not well understood. There are no long-term studies on how the chemicals in Apeel affect soil health and the microorganisms that live in it. Concerns exist that the widespread use of such coatings could disrupt natural soil processes and the health of the microbiome, which are essential for healthy plant growth and ecosystem balance.

Regulatory and Labelling Issues

What are the labeling requirements for Apeel-treated produce in different countries, and how does this impact consumer awareness?
Labeling requirements for Apeel-treated produce vary by country. In the USA, Apeel-coated produce must be labelled, but in Australia, there are no such labeling laws. This discrepancy can lead to a lack of consumer awareness, making it difficult for consumers to know if the fruits and vegetables they purchase have been treated with Apeel. This lack of transparency is a significant concern, especially in places where labeling is not mandatory.

Economic and Ethical Considerations

What economic impact could Apeel have on local farmers if it enables a flood of imported produce with longer shelf life?
If Apeel enables a flood of longer-lasting imported produce, such as apples from China, it could cause local U.S. farmers to go out of business while consumers are left with less nutritious, lower-quality foods.

Could Apeel be an attempt to move consumers away from local, organic foods and towards lower quality imports?
There are concerns that Apeel could represent an attempt to shift U.S. consumers away from nutritious local organic foods and towards lower-quality, long-distance imports that only appear fresh due to the coating.

Consumer Actions and Alternatives

What can consumers do to avoid purchasing Apeel-treated produce?
To avoid purchasing Apeel-treated produce, consumers can buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets, where they can directly ask farmers about their produce and whether it has been treated with Apeel. Consumers can also inquire at their local IGA store or other small grocery stores to ensure they are not selling Apeel-coated produce. Supporting stores and suppliers that commit to not using Apeel, like some international names such as Costco USA, can also help consumers avoid these treated products.

What innovative regenerative farming and sustainable agriculture practices should consumers support as an alternative to products like Apeel?
Consumers should support regenerative and sustainable farming practices that rebuild topsoil, protect water sources, promote nutrition through organic food, minimize food-borne illness risk by avoiding chemicals, restore ecosystems, and help local farmers. This can be done by buying organic food from small local farmers.

Additional Information

What are some simple, natural ways consumers can extend the shelf life of produce without using Apeel?
Natural ways to extend produce shelf life include storing items like avocados in the refrigerator once ripe, freezing produce, soaking berries in a vinegar solution before refrigerating, storing apples in a cool humid place, and using a potassium permanganate solution soak.

Where can consumers find information on companies and farms prioritizing high-quality, nutrient-dense foods?
The Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide lists companies and farms that prioritize the highest-quality and most nutrient-dense foods.

How can consumers voice their concerns or opposition to the use of Apeel coatings on produce?
Consumers can voice their concerns about Apeel coatings by contacting their local grocery stores, produce suppliers, and wholesalers to inquire about their use of Apeel and request more information and transparency. They can also support organizations like the Organic Consumers Association that advocate for sustainable agriculture and push back against the use of potentially harmful additives in our food supply.

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