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Month shelf-life for fruit with vitamin - mineral coating

29-Apr-2005

A mineral and vitamin mixture that cuts the browning and extends the shelf-life of sliced apples could encourage consumers to eat more fruit, say researchers, Lindsey Partos reports.

Scientists at the US government backed laboratories ARS have developed a coating that can preserve apple slices for up to 28 days.

The sulphite-free coating consists of certain forms of calcium, an essential mineral, and ascorbate (vitamin C).

The idea of choosing either or both of these natural compounds to retard browning is not new. But extending shelf-life by using "the specific forms prescribed by the scientists, at any of the ratios they recommended, is unique," say the researchers.

The dip-applied coating was patented in 1999 following tests on sliced apples and pears, and marketed under the trade name 'NatureSeal'.

Unlike lemon juice, the traditional, home-kitchen tactic to thwart browning, the apple dip does not change the colour, taste or texture of the fruit, according to ARS research chemist Dominic W.S. Wong.

The American scientists claim their technology can play a role in the global fight against obesity, encouraging children and adults to boost their fruit consumption.

Identifying mechanisms to plug the growing rates of obesity has in many respects become the holy grail of government, food industry and consumer groups the world over.

Obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index over 30, is a risk factor for a host of (expensive) illnesses including heart disease, hypertension and respiratory disease. According to the Commission, obesity accounts for between 2 to 8 per cent of healthcare costs in Europe.

Fresh figures released last month by the International Obesity Task Force (IOFT) show in excess of 200 million adults across the EU may be overweight or obese. And the number of European kids overweight is rising by a hefty 400,000 a year.

In March the European Commission launched a platform, with a multitude of stakeholders, to curtail the rising figures.

The European food industry has been plucked out by Brussels to participate in the platform that brings industry, consumer groups, health experts and political leaders together to discuss voluntary actions to combat obesity.

For the moment, self-regulatory notions will guide discussions. Food industry fears that the Commission might eventually draw up legislation proposals for food, particularly on labelling and advertising, may not be realised, at least not for now.

"My preference is not to have to regulate," the health and consumer protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told the press conference.

But he cautioned that if nothing comes out of the platform forum, or other European initiatives, "there is the possibility of action for legislating".

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