Non-browning apples sold in the US

By Nichola Murphy
Monday, 23 October, 2017

Customers in the US can now buy crisp, juicy apples without the fear they’ll turn brown when they’re cut, bitten or bruised, thanks to technology from CSIRO.

Developed by Canadian biotech company Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), the Arctic apple uses CSIRO’s non-browning technology to remove the most undesirable quality of the fruit — its speedy transformation into brown flesh.

This is due to polyphenol oxidase (PPO), a naturally occurring enzyme that reacts with other components in the fruit cells when these cells are ‘broken’, producing a brown pigment. Although it is possible to destroy the PPO enzyme through cooking or slow the process by covering the fruit with cling wrap, they are not effective long-term solutions.

Instead, CSIRO scientists developed an anti-PPO gene that prevents the production of PPO and therefore prevents browning when inserted into the fruit. To prove the effectiveness of the technology, OSF will be selling pre-sliced apples.

The Arctic apple builds on the technology that originally prevented potatoes from browning, and company founder Neal Carter began using this method on apples in the 1990s.

“As an apple grower, I was very aware that apple consumption had been declining for decades while obesity rates had simultaneously been sharply rising,” Carter said. “My wife and I felt that we could help boost apple consumption through a similar biotech approach with apples, as non-browning apples would be more appealing and convenient.”

The company also emphasises the nutritional value of the apples, stating on their website: “The nutritional content of Arctic apple varieties has been rigorously analyzed to prove they are just as healthy as their browning counterparts. And, while the browning reaction typically ‘burns up’ healthful content such as antioxidants and vitamin C when an apple is bitten, sliced, or bruised, this is not the case with Arctic apples.”

Although other sliced apples exist on the market, they use vitamin C and calcium to maintain crispness and prevent the fruit turning brown, which often alters the taste and can be costly. The Arctic apple does not have this coating and therefore should have a more authentic apple taste.

At least 40% of apples that are produced are wasted because of unnecessary browning, costing millions of dollars every year. Therefore, the apples could not only tackle rising obesity rates, but also reduce the amount of food waste and increase cost savings.

“We felt this could also significantly reduce food waste, as nearly half of all apples produced end up wasted, many due to superficial bruising,” Carter explained.

In November, the genetically modified apples will be available in 400 stores in the US and OSF hopes it can also gain regulatory approval to grow them in Canada.

After successfully working for potatoes and apples, the non-browning technology could be applied to other fresh produce such as beans, lettuce and grapes, and it has the potential to further reduce food waste in the future.

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