Apeel: A New Chemophobic Concern

An ACSH.org reader wrote to us, asking if we would investigate a controversy surrounding Apeel, a protective coating that's applied to some fruits and vegetables. Cucumbers and apples help us sort through the issues and determine whether consumers should be concerned.

Cucumbers come in a variety of types. The most popular, the English Cucumber, which is not English at all, is a hybrid developed in the last century or so to have very tiny seeds and skin. The result is a cucumber that seems seedless and requires no peeling. It is the one you find in stores wrapped in plastic shrink wrap. The plastic replaces the natural “waxy” protective coating on the outside of the cucumber that was lost as we bred for a thinner skin – maintaining the inner moisture and keeping oxygen out. Apeel replaces the natural protective coating lost with our agricultural “engineering” and plastic. From an environmental point of view, that means a significant reduction in single-use plastics. One estimate puts the plastic wrap around an English cucumber at “5 plastic straws.”

The appeal of Apeel

Apeel is derived from grapeseeds, another bit of savings as these are a “waste product” in producing wines and grape juice. Those seeds are chemically treated to provide purified mono and diglycerides, purified fats, which become the coating on those cucumbers. These purified fatty acids are widely used in foods as an emulsifier (allowing water and oils to mix), and the European Food Safety Organization (EFSA), often far tougher than US regulators, found:

  • No evidence for adverse effects was reported in toxicity studies that assessed these additives.
  • Neither genotoxic nor carcinogenic effects have been observed.
  • A small contribution of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids to the daily fat intake, representing around 0.8–3.5% of the recommendation.
  • EFSA Panel concluded that there was no safety concern regarding the use of these food additives for the general population [1]… and since the dietary exposure to emulsifiers has not increased over the 10-year period, there is no reason to suspect that the dietary exposure may cause a [long-term] safety concern.

The FDA approved using Apeel based on studies they submitted under provisions of “Generally Recognized as Safe.” Even the Center for Science in the Public Interest agrees. But for the chemophobic, the chemical treatment of even a non-GMO plant source leaves the product forever tainted.

“We test our product to confirm that impurities like pesticides, heavy metals, allergens, and trans fats are not present. We test for heavy metals because these are naturally occurring in any food from plant sources (e.g., taken up from the soil, air or water). It’s a general requirement to test to ensure safe levels are not exceeded in any food ingredient.”

A Voice for Choice Advocacy

Leading the charge against Apeel’s use in the US is a group called A Voice for Choice Advocacy. Its founder and president, Christina Hildebrand, is “… a market researcher with a degree in Statistics and modeling …[who] has conducted over 10,000 hours of research on vaccines, including consulting with many leading vaccine researchers, in a quest to understand the reality rather than the hype of vaccines.” The group was formed in response to a California bill eliminating nonmedical, personal belief exemptions from state-mandated immunizations for children entering public or private schools—the formation of this group allowed for legislative lobbying.

A is for Apple and Arsenic

Their objections to Apeel are with its chemical processing and the presence of trace amounts of heptane, ethyl acetate, and heavy metals, especially palladium, arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. Heptane can be found in foods including duck, bacon, nectarines, and ethyl acetate in wine – Apeel has a small amount of each, equivalent to 10% of the allowed daily amount.

To understand the misdirection around heavy metals, we turn to apples. All fruits and vegetables absorb their nutrients from the soil. Along the way, they also absorb heavy metals in the soil. [2] Apples are among the fruit that absorbs the most, including cadmium and lead. Apples also absorb arsenic left from past use of pesticides. In 20 years of testing, the FDA has never found levels in Apples greater than their 10 ppb (parts per billion) limit. Apeel does add more of these heavy metals, all within the standards set by the EFSA. And if your concern is palladium, there is far more in the material used to fill cavities and jewelry. [3]

The bottom line on these trace concerns is that they all are within the standards set by the US and by the far stricter EU.

Misdirection and half-truths

Before the Voice for Choice group starts, it suggests you look at a 2-minute video on Apeel’s organic version, produced by the Organic Consumers Association. You can find the video here, but it may damage your understanding of science and your mental health. It should come with a trigger warning because triggers abound.

To spare you, I will summarize their salient points.

We begin with an allusion to two of the great Satans, Bill Gates and the WEF. Before it was a company, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave Apeel a grant to study ways to reduce food waste. And the WEF did name Apeel Sciences a World Technology Pioneer. And the food coating prevents rotting; it doesn’t hide it.


Those red highlights are in the original and point to more triggers, preservatives, and ultra-processed foods


Actually, Apeel is produced by chemical extractions and techniques. No synthetic biology, let alone genetic engineering. The only genetic engineering I found was in converting cucumbers into English cucumbers, which resulted from farmers' hybridization.


True, but incomplete. If you want to avoid monacylglycerides, skip the baked goods; that is where the most significant number is to be found. And for some odd reason, the Organic Consumer Association forgot to add this quotation,

“the Panel concluded that there was no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI) and that the food additive mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids (E 471) was of no safety concern at the reported uses and use levels.”


Here, they speak about insulin resistance, frequently a forerunner to the onset of Type II diabetes. But insulin resistance is an underlying metabolic change, and the role of environmental sources, including foods, remains a “could.”


Organipeel is Apeel’s organic version and does contain citric acid, a constituent of citrus fruit, which is Organipeel's source. It seems if a fruit or vegetable component can be given a scary chemical name, they are bad.

The video ends with an appeal (pun intended) to buy locally. It's a good idea that works well for me during the summer. But in the cold winters, I will be eating more of those root vegetables with no fresh fruit in sight. And that really helps to explain the value of Apeel. It protects a food chain that transports foods over long distances so that we can eat all those nutritious foods we have been told are necessary year-round.

And one last fact that the Voice for Choice forgot to point out: Apeel has been approved for use in the US with Avocados, English cucumbers, limes, asparagus, and apples. We only eat the peel for those cucumbers and apples; for all the others, the Apeel and the peel are not eaten. So no concern about ingesting trace anything. [4]


[1] They did raise concern about this class of emulsifiers, not Apeel directly, in infant foods where it is not used.

[2] These heavy metals are often from car and truck emissions on the roads surrounding orchards.

[3] If you want to avoid these in foods, you can skip the root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, mushrooms, brown rice and leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and kale. The low-risk produce includes tomatoes, beans, squash, and cucumbers. And for the contrarians, meat contains few heavy metals.

[4] The remaining fruits, with EU approval of Apeel, likewise are all peeled.