Fact Sheet: Use of Morpholine in Apple Coatings

December 9, 2002

Fruit and vegetable producers and cooperatives use various processes to protect produce. One of these processes is the waxing of fruits and vegetables prior to sale. Waxing these foods seals them, protects them from pests and diseases, and prevents them from drying out, thus maintaining freshness. By their very nature, waxes also enhance the appearance of treated fruit.

Morpholine is a substance which is added to some waxes used to coat apples. It is normally added to the wax as morpholine oleate and dissolves and spreads the wax, allowing for application of the coating in a water-based liquid form. When the wax is dried by a hot air treatment, any residual morpholine evaporates and only trace levels are left.

Morpholine has been used for about twenty-five years in Canada as part of some coatings and has been permitted for the same use in other countries including Australia and the United States.

Health Canada's role in regulating this product

While most components of fruit and vegetable coatings are not regulated per se, Health Canada has typically evaluated any new chemicals intended for such coatings before their use in Canada. This is consistent with Health Canada's role in setting food safety standards.

Health Canada's most recent assessment of morpholine

Health Canada does periodic re-evaluations of chemicals used in food processing applications. This allows for consideration of any new scientific evidence. Health Canada has recently completed its re-evaluation of morpholine for use in apple-wax coatings. The review included a detailed assessment of:

  1. the toxicity of morpholine as well as a toxic reaction product called N-nitrosomorpholine;
  2. the potential exposure to these substances resulting from the use of morpholine in such coatings; and
  3. any potential risks to consumers of the fruit.

This has resulted in one of the most comprehensive reviews ever taken on this subject. Health Canada has determined that morpholine as used in apple coatings does not present a risk to human health.

Health Canada recommends that Canadians eat a balanced and varied diet containing fruits and vegetables. Controlled atmosphere storage as well as the use of wax coatings on apples help to provide Canadians with year-round access to this important fruit in our diet.

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