This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
It’s hard to imagine average Americans of the 1950s and ‘60s walking around carrying bottles of water or worrying about getting to the gym three times a week. But just as lifestyles have changed over the decades, so have eating styles. Today’s Americans demand a variety of fresh, convenient, healthy, quick snacks and meals—and USDA scientists made a major contribution to meeting that demand.
Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service teamed with Mantrose-Haeuser, Co., Inc., of Westport, Conn., to develop a coating that helps prevent browning of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. The blend of vitamin salts and minerals extends the shelf life of sliced fruits up to 28 days under refrigeration without detectable changes in color, flavor or texture. Thanks to this innovation, the nation’s largest fast-food restaurants now offer sliced apples or products containing sliced apples as a healthy choice on their menus.
USDA-ARS exclusively licensed the patented technology to Mantrose-Haeuser, which manufactures the coating under the trade name NatureSeal®. NatureSeal® is sold commercially to apple processors and food retailers who use the coating to treat fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. This is the first-available commercial product of its kind that doesn’t have a bad aftertaste or residue.
Sliced apples can now be found in 84 percent of supermarkets, and organic growers use the coating to treat sliced apples.
This technology provides more than tasty treats; it’s also created jobs. Processors, equipment manufacturers, sanitizer suppliers and packaging manufacturers are just a few of the businesses that have been created or expanded to meet demand for this product.
Sliced apples treated with NatureSeal® are now served in the National School Lunch Program, and more than 1,000 schools nationwide buy NatureSeal® directly to treat sliced apples on-site for use in school lunches.