Why Arctic Apples don't turn brown

Posted on March 10, 2015

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by Stuart Smyth

My kids love apples. I can’t even fathom how many times I’ve wished I could have included sliced apple into their school lunches when they were in elementary school. The inability to include apple slices in children’s school lunches is something that has not only frustrated me, but thousands of other parents whose children enjoy eating apples. Prepackaged sliced apples were not yet on the market when I was packing my boys lunches. (Packaged apples are preserved by absorbic acid and calcium absorbate/carbonate, with the disadvantage that they are not fresh.) Fortunately, a Canadian company has struck upon a wonderful solution.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits, located in Summerland, British Columbia, recently received approval from regulatory agencies in the United States to begin commercial production of the Arctic® Apples. This variety of apple is still under review  for food approval and commercial production in Canada. Given the regulatory harmonization that exists between Canada and the United States, approval for Arctic Apples in Canada is expected shortly.

The question I was curious about was, why doesn’t the apple turn brown like all other apples after being bitten into or cut? The answer is chemistry. Apples produce a chemical (polyphenol oxidase or PPO) when the flesh is exposed to air, the flesh turns brown. This is known as oxidation. The novel solution developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits was to slightly change the gene responsible for production of this chemical that is responsible for oxidation. Scientists at Okanagan Specialty Fruits mapped the apple genome and found a PPO gene in other apple varieties that produced PPO at much lower levels. The scientists transferred this gene to the Artic Apple variety which now produces significantly lower levels of oxidation. The result, the Arctic variety that doesn’t turn brown when cut.

Many people may ask, is it safe? This is an appropriate question in the face of new food technology. 

Click here to read the rest of the article on the SAIFood website.

Dr. Stuart Smyth holds the Industry Funded Research Chair in Agri-Food Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan

Neal Carter, founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, was recently interviewed on the Dr. Oz Show. 

Watch the episode

Stuart Smyth
Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics, University of Saskatchewan.