The FDA has approved two types of apples that will not brown. You can expect them in your grocery store next year.
For years, lemon juice has been my saving grace to keep sliced apples from oxidizing. Up until recently that is, when my 1-year-old deemed its taste unacceptable. Sucking all the air out of zip-lock bags manually with a straw has been my newest solution. According to Canadian-based fruit company Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), they have a solution: non-browning apples, specifically Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, called Arctic apples.
OSF discovered that apples brown when the fruit’s phenolic compounds react with oxygen. This oxidation process is driven by polyphenol oxidase (PPO), an enzyme. When the apple’s cells are ruptured—for example, by bruising, biting or cutting—the browning reaction begins when PPO found in one part of the cell is able to react with phenolic compounds found elsewhere in the cell. Through genetic engineering, OSF was able to produce an apple with little or no PPO enzyme. In short, OSF apples won’t brown.
But what does a genetically modified Arctic apple mean for our health? Are they safe? After two decades in the making, Arctic apples may be among the most researched fruits. The truth is, Arctic apples are no different from any other apple—that is until they are cut into or bruised.
While Arctic apples’ non-browning trait may seem superfluous at a glance, it actually presents many advantages. According to USDA Economic Research Service, around 50 percent of consumers’ food dollars are spent in the food service arena, which requires products that are low-maintenance, are ready when needed and provide bang for the buck. And apples are hardly represented there. Few fresh cut apples are available on fruit plates, in salads, in cafeterias and on airplanes primarily because of their browning issue. Anti-browning treatments are costly and often add an aftertaste to the apples. Arctic apples will now allow apples to be conveniently available to consumers.
Through years of surveying, OSF has found that apples are the No.1 produce item consumers would like to see more packaged versions of—namely bagged apple slices. Take the simple convenience of baby carrots. It doubled carrot consumption. While bagged apples wouldn’t be new to the market, ones without any taste-altering preservatives would be.
And think of the waste. Apples are among the most wasted foods on the planet, with around 40 percent of what’s produced never being consumed. That’s largely due to bruising and browning. Additional research on Arctic apples shows that since Arctic apples don’t brown, their antioxidants aren’t consumed like they are by apples’ browning reaction—meaning possibly a healthier apple.
So, in a time where the demand for convenient and healthier foods has reached exponential growth, perhaps Arctic apples will cause us to no longer ignore the saying of an apple a day.