Don't Eat Dropped Apples

By Susan Littlefield

If you grow apples in your home garden, you may be tempted to collect dropped apples to use for making applesauce, cider, or apple butter. But according to a news release from the University of Illinois (U of I) Extension Service, this is a risky thing to do.

The fallen apples may contain a toxic compound called patulin that is produced by fungi growing on the dropped fruit. The fungi make their way into the fruits through insect damage and bruises. Even heating infected apples will not make them safe for consumption. While heat will kill the living microorgansims, the toxin they produce is heat-stable and will remain in the fruit. And even a small amount of the patulin is considered harmful -- just one teaspoonful in 2 billion gallons of cider exceeds the FDA maximum tolerance level!

U of I Extension Specialist Mosbah Kushad notes that this warning is directed especially at home apple growers since reputable commercial growers are aware of the patulin risk and don't sell or make cider from dropped or rotten apples.

Says James Theuri, U of I Extension small farms educator, "Consumers who have apple trees should absolutely not use apple drops, or bruised, damaged fruits. It's better to be safe than to be sorry. Patulin toxins are highest in moldy apples; the more mold growth, the more patulin toxin."

To read the entire U of I Extension News Release, Go to: Bad Apples May Carry Patulin Toxin.

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