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Extra-glossy fruits and shiny vegetables often greet you when you venture out for grocery-shopping. By now, many people are aware that the shine comes from artificial wax coating that is applied on fruits and veggies to improve their appearance and increase their shelf life. It is natural for one to be concerned about the adverse effect of such waxes on our health.
So do we really need artificial wax? Experts say it is essential to preserve the moisture content. Fruits and vegetables have a natural wax coating that retains the moisture in them which is around 80-95%. But for the purpose of packaging, these fruits and vegetables are thoroughly washed due to which the natural coat of wax wears off and has to be replaced by artificial wax to prevent them from water loss.
Are these artificial waxes safe for consumption? Not all of them. Dr. Soumyadeep Mukhopadhyay, Laboratory-in-charge at MitraSK Food Testing Services explains what kind of waxes are harmful for us and the kinds that are relatively safe.
“In India as per the Government Act i.e., Food Safety and Standard Regulations, the natural waxes like candelilla wax, beeswax and carnauba wax are the only permissible food waxes in different fruits and vegetables. In order to determine the composition, the physical and chemical properties need to be known. All of the natural waxes have the esters group which are not present in petroleum waxes as they are made of alkanes of various carbons,” he told us.
Dr Mukhopadhyay adds that coating that involve morpholine can cause liver or kidney dysfunction.
A FTIR Spectroscopy is a method by which samples of various waxes are passed through the FTIR Spectrometer. All natural waxes have the presence of Ester Group which are not there in artificial waxes. FSSAI permits only natural waxes and therefore the FTIR tested wax coatings applied on products are not considered harmful.
On the other hand, the non-permitted wax can be quite harmful for us. It can cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, says Dr Mukhopadhyay.
The next time, you go out to buy fruits and vegetables, make sure they are FSSAI-approved.