First the good news: You know those brown-spotted, rotting bananas on your kitchen counter that you swear you’ll make banana bread with? You may not have to deal with them anymore. Now the bad news: Those very same bananas may not be the vegan fruit you thought they were once you find out what’s on them.
Yesterday, scientists at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society revealed a new spray-on coating that could delay the ripening of bananas at home, in restaurants and in grocery stores. All of which sounds good at first, until you find out what’s in that “spray.”
The banana coating is made from chitosan, a substance derived from shrimp and crab shells. It works by killing bacteria that causes certain produce to rot. After they are picked, the banana’s pulp releases a chemical that boosts respiration, which then converts into the sugars that cause them to ripen so we can eat them. But, as that respiration continues, bananas become unpleasantly sweet and mushy if you don’t eat them within a couple of days.
The study’s leader, Xihong Li, said this can extend a banana’s life for nearly two weeks:
We found that by spraying green bananas with a chitosan aerogel, we can keep bananas fresh for up to 12 days. Once bananas begin to mature, they quickly become yellow and soft, and then they rot. 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.
The chitosan spray may be working on rotting bananas, but it’s not working for vegans. Because it’s made with fish parts–shrimp and crab shells, that goes against what vegans eat.
So now the question is: Will grocery stores and other food outlets alert consumers if bananas have been sprayed with chitosan? Because, even for people who aren’t vegans, we all deserve to know what is on our food. I, for one, try to eat as organic as possible and don’t want to eat anything that’s been sprayed with chemicals–even if it means saving my bananas for another week or so.
What about you?