EU approval for 'edible coating' that extends fruit shelf life expected in 2019
Apeel could help in battle against food waste
A plant-derived, edible coating that could significantly extend the shelf life of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and reduce food waste is expected to gain EU regulatory approval in the second half of 2019.
Apeel, developed by US-based Apeel Sciences, is applied at the supplier level as a post-harvest application with a spray, dip or brush bed system. It forms a thin ‘peel’ of edible plant material – lipids and glycerolipids - that slows down the rate of water loss and oxidation.
The product has already been approved for use in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Colombia, China, and Japan, and the company expects further markets to give the product the green light in the near future. “We expect to roll out in the EU in the second half of 2019,” Michelle Masek, Apeel Science’s head of marketing, told IEG Vu.
She explained that Apeel creates an “optimal microclimate” within each piece of produce, which maintains quality and freshness even without refrigeration. “Our product was developed to work without a cold chain, but it can be used with refrigeration, which can lead to even longer shelf life extensions,” Masek said.
“Depending on conditions, such as the type of produce, age of the produce etc, we’ve seen at least a doubling or tripling of shelf life across dozens of fruit and vegetable categories.”
The coating is made from materials found in any kind of fruit and vegetable, although certain fresh produce are a richer source of lipids than others. This includes the parts of the plant that are often discarded or go unused after harvesting such as peels and seeds.
Apeel Sciences is currently focussed on its application for use on citrus, asparagus and avocados but plan to introduce additional categories for suppliers and retailers in 2019.
In the US, where it is designated by the FDA as ‘Generally Recognised as Safe’ (GRAS) and can also be used on USDA Certified Organic produce, Apeel Avocados are available in CostCo, Kroger, Harps Food Stores and Martin’s locations in the Midwest, and the company claims to have strong interest from retailers in the EU as well.
“Retailers have been very excited about Apeel Avocados and how they’re helping them reduce waste and capture new value, in addition to growing sales margins from selling longer lasting avocados,” Masek said.
“At the retail level, we’re starting to learn of the financial improvements from reducing food waste: our Apeel avocados program is reducing food waste by more than 50% for some partners.”
Developing plant-derived solutions to reduce food waste is part of the company’s mission statement, as well as at the same time improving access to fresh and nutritional produce to consumers.
“Beyond being important for people and the planet, lessening food waste is also a big business opportunity. In the United States alone, food waste represents USD18.2 billion in lost value for retailers,” Masek explained.
“We’re focused on helping fresh produce get to the marketplace and creating value at every stage along the way. By slowing down the rate that produce spoils, we have an opportunity to impact every stage of the global value chain, from growers to shippers to retailers and the consumer.”
Masek explained that the regulatory process for Apeel varies from market to market, but as it uses plant-derived materials that have been known to have a history of safe use, in the company’s experience the safety assessment of the product is generally straightforward.
“One notable difference is that the EU process is committee-based and includes participation from representatives from across the EU Member States. This diverse participation inherently brings different perspectives on new technologies and may increase the time for approval.”
She added: “The biggest constraint in the EU (and anywhere) is that there’s an established infrastructure, from the way we apply Apeel to how produce enters the system. We are working with our partners to determine how to optimize the application systems while working within their current infrastructures.”
A European Commission spokesperson confirmed to IEG Vu that Apeel’s application for regulatory approval is an ongoing case under the EU food additives regulations (Article 6 of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008).
“The application is still under consideration by the Commission services and the experts from the EU Member States,” the spokesperson said. “Technical discussions are ongoing... so at this point, we are not in the position to say when the discussions will be closed.”