Why American Apples Are No Longer Imported to Europe


In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority started investigating with the help of the chemical industry to gather more information on a substance called DPA, or diphenylamine. According to Washington State University in regards to industry scale apple production, DPA is used when fruit is stored for several months before distribution to prevent brown spots or “storage clad” as it is otherwise known.

While DPA isn’t believed to be harmful by itself but it has the potential to break down into a carcinogen called nitrosamines and obviously that isn’t something that you want to find on your apple and this is why the European Food Safety Authority is interested in more information on the chemical. There was only one study that found “three unknown chemicals on DPA-treated apples, but it wasn’t known if any of these chemicals formed were nitrosamines”. The Environmental Working Group advised that they were concerned that the substance DPA could decay into nitrosamines under contact with nitrogen and as such the EFSA banned the use of DPA on apples back in 2012. In March, they also cut back on the acceptable level of DPA on imported apples to 0.1 parts per million.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the DPA residue reading on US grown apples was found on 80 per cent of samples and the readings were about four times the European limit, siting on average 0.42 parts per million. These readings were conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and the results were from 2010. While it is concerning that the apples that are in your kitchen would be considered unsafe for consumption by European authorities, the US based Environmental Protection Agency does monitor the DPA levels on apples but it only flags it as an issue when it’s up to 10 parts per million which surprisingly is 100 times above the European level. According to the EWG, the EPA hasn’t reconsidered the substance since 1998 and has no plans to in the future – earlier this year three scientists in the EPA Office of Pesticides advised that they were unaware of the new European restrictions on the level of DPA and as such US apples would not be allowed to be imported. However this has not been enough for the EPA to review the substance either.


So the real question that you’re probably asking now is whether or not DPA treated apples pose any real risk to you or your family? It seems that the answer so far has been inconclusive on both sides of the world. Until they know for sure if there is a risk, Europe has decided that their people shouldn’t be eating it. For people living in the US, the EWG suggests buying organic apples when you can if you’re concerned about the chemicals used for storing fruit.


Tom Philpott

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