A new chemical solution may help keep supermarket fruit fresher longer. A new chemical solution may help keep supermarket fruit fresher longer. A new chemical solution may help keep supermarket fruit fresher longer. (Photo: Elnur / Shutterstock)

Can old-fashioned hair dye solve world hunger?

New non-toxic treatment can increase the shelf life of fruit and veggies up to 9 weeks.

We all need to eat. Preferably the fresher the food the better, right? But to feed a growing number of mouths in the United States, farmers need to rely on post-harvest treatments – and chemicals. This is so food can be shipped out across state lines, and last days or even weeks on supermarket shelves.

Some of the treatments applied to prevent fungus and disease from forming on our food have less than desirable side-effects. Israeli company Pimi Agro is looking to help with a safer, less toxic solution.

Pimi’s invention – 10 years in the making and authorized for use in countries like the United States, China and Germany – comes from the same kind of chemical that makes bottle blondes blonder: hydrogen peroxide.

What makes people so gaga for Lady Gaga can also solve food insecurity, right?

Hydrogen peroxide makes bottle blonds blonder than Lady Gaga. It can also solve world hunger cheaply and safely.Hydrogen peroxide makes bottle blonds blonder than Lady Gaga. It can also solve world hunger cheaply and safely. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Shutterstock)

Their chemical solution – consisting of hydrogen peroxide, formic acid and other secret but non-toxic chemicals – can extend shelf life by up to nine weeks, while helping prevent both disease and fungus. Some estimates say about half of the world’s food is lost to spoilage and disease. If so much food doesn’t even make it to the table, Pimi might be poised to take a massive bite out of world hunger.

This is especially powerful for countries like China and India, and for Africa, where many farmers often don’t have access to refrigeration and where transporting food is unreliable and erratic. Solutions like this – in combination with permaculture and bee cultivation for agriculture – can put higher quality food on our tables.

Recent pilot tests in the United States with large food manufacturers have surpassed the company’s expectations, one source told From The Grapevine. In a public forum in Jaffa, Israel, in early 2015, the company CEO reported that Walmart, PepsiCo and FritoLay were testing the product.

Currently, many food producers treat with chlorine or a copper sulfate spray. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that these are OK to ingest in limited amounts. But other, less damaging solutions would be seen as beneficial. Pimi Agro's product eventually breaks down into water and oxygen.

Andrew Carter applies sustainable farming techniques as a system designer at Blue Planet Consulting in New York. Toxicity may be a lesser concern to him than chemical resistance. “As specialists in the indoor agriculture sector, we know that although fungicides are generally low toxicity, usage can contribute to resistance in a species making it much harder to manage in the future," he told From The Grapevine.

Pimi Agro's formulation is currently available in the United States and is now being used by some of the largest citrus packing houses with customers in many western states and in Florida. Soon it will be used on spuds, bananas, mangos and papayas.


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