The shiny, deep-hued apples sitting in your local grocer’s produce section might not be as innocent and pristine as they appear. Most commercially-grown apples in the United States are coated with a chemical called diphenylamine (DPA). This treatment prevents brown spots on the apples that naturally occur as a result of oxidation and the ripening of the fruit.
Back in 2008 the European Food Safety Authority first began questioning the American practice. When they requested further information from the US industry, it became clear that while DPA itself isn’t harmful, when it is broken down into its various parts, it reveals itself to be made up of carcinogenic compounds called “nitrosamines.”
Further European investigation found that DPA contained unknown chemicals and banned DPA-treated apples throughout Europe. This past March, the Authority set the maximum level of DPA allowed in produce at 0.1 parts per million.
Compare that number to the average of 0.42 ppm of DPA found in 80% of US apples in a test conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2010. This means, in practical terms, that 80% of US apples will be forbidden for import to Europe.
Health wise, it’s shocking to realize that American produce contains 4 times the amount of a possibly dangerous chemical than currently allowed in Europe. Even more startling is the fact that the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows DPA traces of up to 10 ppm on apples – 100x the amount legally allowed for import to Europe.
These facts beg the question: why are US authorities so lenient on how much potentially harmful chemicals are used in growing our food?
There should be more research done immediately to get to the bottom of the exact nature of DPA and its effects on human health. You, in the US, might be wise to mimic the wariness of European food authorities and stay away from any apples which are non-organic. One of the safest ways to buy fruits & vegetables is to purchase from a local grower, who you can personally ask about the chemicals he or she does or does not use.