Monday, June 4, 2012

Shellfish-Based Spray on The Horizon For Bananas

A little shellfish with your banana? Photo courtesy: Yahoo!News

We never learn, we just never learn. Now once again, we are modifying food products just for the sake of some sort of preconceived customer "convenience". If your bananas are turning brown faster than you can eat them, try buying less at a time. Go to the store more often; and, bring home less. A shocking solution I know; but, it just might catch on.

While this new coating may prevent bananas from ripening more quickly than a consumer wishes, it brings with it a whole host of other considerations.

Blisstree is among the first to report that your bananas may soon become non-vegan! How can that be? It turns out, a new spray-on coating designed to lengthen the shelf life of bananas may contain animal parts. At the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society this week, scientists unveiled a spray that reportedly will keep bananas from ripening for up to 12 extra days by killing the bacteria that causes the fruit to turn brown so quickly.

"Once bananas begin to mature, they quickly become yellow and soft, and then they rot," Xihong Li, who presented the report, tells Science Daily. "We have developed a way to keep bananas green for a longer time and inhibit the rapid ripening that occurs. Such a coating could be used at home by consumers, in supermarkets, or during shipment of bananas."

While this could be good news for some (no more hurrying to eat those mushy bananas you forgot about!), the coating includes chitosan, a derivative of shrimp and crab shells, so if the coating reaches the banana (not just the peel), the fruit would no longer be considered vegan or vegetarian. Additionally, shellfish and seafood are two of the most common causes of allergies.

My big concern is whether we can trust banana growers, shippers, handlers or supermarkets to tell us if that spray has been applied to their bananas. If they don't tell us, how will we know? I'm sure there will be a market out there for untreated bananas. Personally, if there isn't a market for untreated bananas or the information doesn't have to be given to the public, I'll simply stop eating bananas.

"This is big," fitness and nutrition expert JJ Virgin says. "However, as long as the spray doesn't get through the skin, the banana wouldn't necessarily become non-vegan or non-vegetarian -- it depends on the person. Some vegans eschew any products that contain animal parts at all, including things like purses and shoes, and others don't." That said, since the spray would most likely have to permeate the peel in order to kill the bacteria in the banana, vegans may have to start avoiding the popular fruit.

More important than the vegan issue, according to Virgin, is the issue of allergies. "Someone who eats a banana every day - and many people do - could develop an allergy or a low-grade reaction to the shellfish where she or he didn't originally have one," she says.

Let's not forget that those who already have a shellfish allergy will now have to give up eating or handling bananas in any fashion to ensure their health and safety. There are going to be some unhappy campers in that group, I can tell you.

Indeed, food allergies have been on the rise in recent years, and when your immune system is constantly exposed to something, your digestive system can begin to create a response to it. This can explain why adults who thought they had outgrown childhood allergies or who have never experienced allergies at all can find themselves unexpectedly dealing with a food sensitivity or allergy later on in life.

But you don't have to panic just yet! Currently, the coating is not (and, with any luck, will never be) available in stores. According to Science Daily, Li's research team is hoping to replace one of the ingredients in the spray, so it may be a while before this becomes a reality.

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