Happy Herbivore Blog

February 16, 2012

Coated to Maintain Freshness

When I lived in Florida, there was always a farmers market or fresh, local produce stand around. There were a few that I went to regularly, and I learned the ones I needed to avoid. 

As some of you may know, I am allergic to cottonseed oil. On the handout that my allergist gave me about things that contain cootonseed oil, it said to avoid produce stands and farmers markets because the oil is often used to make the vegetables look shiny and prevent spoiling.

I have walked into produce stands and up to tables at farmer's markets and can feel the oil on the tomatoes. I turn around and walk out, there is no way I am going to buy it. Could they be using a different type of oil? Sure, but if they feel the need to put oil on their produce to make it look prettier, I don't want it.

Living in a small town, where it snows, there are no farmer's markets much less local produce stands. We have to buy our produce from the grocery store. This is where I bought a bag of apples the other day (they weren't organic - which I guess was my first mistake). 

You can imagine my surprise when I got home and read the label "coated with Food Grade Vegetable and/or Shelac Based Wax to Maintain Freshness". What?!? Besides the possibilty of the grocery store selling apples that I may be allergic to, the apples are no longer plant-based (vegan). A bag of apples!

Shelac, or shellac, "is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees," according to Wikipedia. It is this resin that is processed and used as the wax the bag of apples refers to. Yuk, I don't want to eat the secretion of any bug.

It's bad enough that some manufactures add 'natural flavoring' to food for taste, but to add a bug secretion just to make food shiny? That is a bit much in my opinion.

If you don't know about natural flavoring (an ingredient listed in a lot of processed foods), it can be almost anything. Literally almost anything, so long as its function is for flavor and not nutrition. That means it can be artichoke leaves, or cherry pits, or the secretions of the sperm whale (ambergis) or beavers (castoreum), or many other things. But that's a topic for another day.

For now I will be returning to the store to exchange the apples for ones not coated to to maintain freshness.

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