Home Enterprise Solutions CSIRO helps keep apples from browning even when cut

CSIRO helps keep apples from browning even when cut

A gene developed by scientists at the CSIRO has helped Canadian biotech company Okanagan Specialty Fruits to keep one of its apples from turning brown when they cut, bitten or bruised.

The slice apples, known by the brand name Arctic, will go on sale in select US supermarkets this month.

The Canadian company is the first to license the non-browning technology from the CSIRO. Its first product will be snack-sized bags of fresh Arctic Golden apple slices. More non-browning varieties, including Granny Smith and Fuji, are expected in the future.

Apples and other fruits and vegetables turn brown after they are cut or damaged due to a naturally occurring enzyme called polyphenol oxidase or PPO. The enzyme reacts with other fruit cell components and produces a brown pigment.

To avoid this, scientists at the CSIRO constructed an anti-PPO gene that, when inserted into plants, blocked the production of PPO.

arctic golden apples

The technology may be able to reduce waste not only of apples and potatoes, but also for beans, lettuce and grapes where produce with only small injuries can still be sold.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits founder Neal Carter began working on the apples in the mid-1990s. “I came across research from CSIRO that had managed to ‘turn off’ browning in potatoes,” he said.

“As an apple grower, I was very aware that apple consumption had been declining for decades while obesity rates had simultaneously been sharply rising.

“My wife and I felt that we could help boost apple consumption through a similar biotech approach with apples, as non-browning apples would be more appealing and convenient.

“We felt this could also significantly reduce food waste, as nearly half of all apples produced end up wasted, many due to superficial bruising.”

Other sliced apple products on the market are often coated with vitamin C and calcium to prevent browning and to preserve crispness leading to a change in taste.

Photos: courtesy CSIRO

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.