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Why Your Fruit May Not Be Vegan!

Joe Schwarz PHD (excerpts reprinted for Educational purposes from McGill University Archives)

The facts behind the viral video about roach feces being used as fruit wax (Shellac) in most supermarkets!

Our beloved organic fruit isn't always vegan. Many stores spray their fruit with shellac wax to preserve it, & shellac is derived from insects, making it non-vegan. If you are supporting products from mono crop production instead of purchasing from a farmer’s market where you can ensure the practices used to producer your food, you are supporting the continuation of the practices we will now inform you of that make eating fruit a challenge to weak stomachs.

Pick an apple off a tree, buff it a little and it will shine! That’s because the fruit is coated with a layer of natural wax that protects it from drying out and helps to prevent fungi from getting a foothold. The wax is a mixture of up to fifty different compounds, most of which fall into the chemical category known as esters. There are also alcohols like heptacosanol and malol as well as hydrocarbons such as triacontane, C30H62. This compound can also be isolated from petroleum and is sometimes applied to fruit to supplement its natural wax. In that case chemophobes kick and scream about a petroleum derivative being applied to their fruit but there is no difference between triacontane produced by an apple isolated from petroleum.

Natural wax also contains compounds in the triterpenoid family. Ursolic acid has a variety of biochemical effects that have been demonstrated in laboratory experiments. For example, it can inhibit the proliferation of various cancer cells and also has weak aromatase inhibitor activity. Aromatase is an enzyme that leads to the synthesis of estradiol, the body’s main estrogen that is implicated in some cancers. This of course does not mean that the amount of ursolic acid in the peel of an apple can have a beneficial effect on human health, but it is at least another plus for eating apples.

After apples are picked they are washed before they appear in the supermarket to remove dirt and chemical residues. This process also removes the wax. Since the waxy layer prevents moisture in the apple from escaping, its loss shortens the storage time for the fruit. Producers therefore spray the fruit with a thin layer of wax to prevent such moisture loss as well as to make the apple look more appealing. The applied layer is very thin, only about 3 mg of wax coat an apple.

Several different types of wax are used, mostly Carnauba wax that comes from the leaves of the Brazilian palm, Candelia wax from a dessert plant, as well as food grade shellac from the Indian lac bug. Shellac from this insect makes jelly beans, candy corn, and other hard-coated candy look shiny. It may be called a "confectioner's glaze" on the packaging. This shellac, is the resinous exudate produced by the female Indian "lac" bug, an insect that spends its whole life attached to a tree, sucking its sap and converting it into the familiar sticky substance that has long been used to provide a glossy protective coating on wood and chocolate mints it's also a mainstay in pill coatings, coffee beans, and even the waxy sheen most fruits and vegetables. While the fact that shellac comes from a bug may be off-putting for some people, there is no evidence to suggest that it may be harmful to one’s health, other than for those with allergies to the substance.

The amount of these bugs required to produce just one kilogram of shellac is enormous, ranging from 50,000 to 300,000. In fact, the root word, “lakh” is an Indian counting unit that refers to 100,000. Once the resin is collected, it is sold in its dry form to various shellac manufacturers where it is mixed with ethanol (varnish shellac, which is highly poisonous, is mixed with methanol).

Shellac is commonly used as a coating in food due to its natural glaze, which comes from its wax content. Also used as a sort of natural glue, shellac is common throughout the food industry and may also appear on an ingredients label as “confectioner’s wax” or “confectioner’s glaze.” Other than a possible allergic reaction for some people, there are no known adverse effects attributed to shellac.



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