Q: Is the wax on fruits and vegetables really harmful?
– Patrick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A: It’s not the wax, but what is trapped in the wax that you want to avoid. Waxes are used to seal in moisture and keep produce fresh. Even organic produce uses waxes, such as beeswax and carnauba wax. There is no evidence that these waxes pose any health problems. However, the waxes used on conventional produce can seal in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides used during the growing of this produce. They also are sometimes mixed with fungicides to maintain quality during storage. Washing apples or peeling other produce, such as eggplant, that has been treated with wax significantly reduces harmful residues. There is no need to buy expense produce soaps. You can remove waxes and pesticides with diluted Ivory soap or any liquid dish soap and a sturdy vegetable brush. Be sure to rinse well. Peeling produce, such as apples, and removing the outer leaves from vegetables like lettuce also are ways to reduce pesticide exposure. Organic produce typically has lower levels of wax and pesticides than conventional produce, if you can afford the extra cost. Keep in mind, the health benefits of fruits and vegetables far out-weigh any possible health risk, so don’t avoid the produce department for fear of pesticides or a little wax. – Elizabeth Somer