The food-industrial complex may have made it increasingly difficult to determine what, exactly, we’re eating: Your soy sauce may contain gluten; your ice cream may have tree nuts in it; your salad mix may be tainted with E. coli. But there are some foods that are so blessedly unprocessed, so uncomplicated, that they are just what they are, right?
Or not. As Science Daily reports, scientists have come up with a new spray they say will prevent bananas from ripening into brown mush for almost two extra weeks. The downside? The spray is made from chitosan, which is derived from the shells of shrimp and crabs.
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Of course, it’s unsettling to think of bananas, the quintessential snack fruit, carrying new warning labels: “This product may contain shellfish byproducts.” But beyond that, the spray could render the fruit off-limits to hard-line vegans and to people who suffer from shellfish allergies (one of the most common allergies in the U.S.).
Currently, the chitosan-based spray is not available commercially, so no bananas are being treated. But as Science Daily notes, the bacteria-fighting prowess of the shellfish-derivative “is attracting considerable attention in efforts to keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer.”
And as Xihong Li, the Chinese researcher who presented the results of the banana study recently at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, said: “Such a coating could be used at home by consumers, in supermarkets or during shipment of bananas."
Which means that in the not-so-distant-future, you just might end up eating a banana with just a hint of the sea.
What do you think? Has food technology crossed the line?
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• Buyer Beware: There's More to the Organic vs. Conventional Food Debate Than We Thought
Jason Best has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council. He writes about food, sustainability and the environment.