These things have to go

There’s simply no way to buy a good, tart, Granny Smith apple—or any apple—these days without getting that infernal paper tag on it. (And don’t get me started on how mushy and tasteless most commercially available apples are.)

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Are they really necessary? And how many times have I pierced the skin of a fruit or vegetable when trying to remove these things? I heard a few years ago that they were replacing them with laser-markings that just lightly scored the skin of the fruit, but that hasn’t appeared in the markets.

84 Comments

  1. Posted December 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    They’re insidious. Once I missed one and didn’t realise it until I started drinking my NurtiBullet = (

    • Sastra
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      I baked one into a pie 😦

      • Posted December 20, 2015 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        My parents once bought a pie and we discovered an entire latex glove in it.

        • Kevin
          Posted December 21, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          Bleech. I somehow dissolved a spatula into rice crispy treats at a college co-op. No one could tel the difference.

  2. Posted December 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Hear-hear! The worst is forgetting them and baking the little tags into a pie.

  3. Jacques Hausser
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Yes – and every year when I prepare my compost I have to collect dozens of these damned, non degradable things – apparently nobody in my family is able to (or care to) separate them from the peelings despite my reiterated rants.

  4. Merilee
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    PITA

  5. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    The only solution seems to be to demand apples who are tag-unfriendly, i.e. spiky. We could call the skin ornament a Tagomizer.

  6. Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I bought a Rudabaker the other day that had one of those stupid stickers on it, also it was waxed. I really dislike it when “they” mess with my Veggies that way, grosses me out.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Rutabaga waxing has been going on for a long time.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 21, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      I’ve never even heard of waxed veges (or fruit). Very few things have those sticky labels on them either, though more and more all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one big enough for a full bar code though – they have 4 digit product numbers and a logo in NZ mostly. Easy enough to get off.

      • Posted December 27, 2015 at 1:40 am | Permalink

        Rutabagas, Turnips, some squashes are frequently waxed now a days, keep them from drying out and to extend their shelf life, thereby increasing profits.
        Apples and some other fruit are also sometimes waxed or shellacked for the same reason.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted December 27, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure we don’t wax veges or fruit for the local (NZ) market. We export more than 90% of what we produce, so maybe we do for the export market, but I think it unlikely because we trade so much on the “clean, green” image. I think we limit to fresh, chilled, and fresh/frozen.

  7. Daniel bertini
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    About the only thing apples are good for now adays is baking, without the dreaded sticker.

    • DireLobo
      Posted December 21, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Honeycrisp – try one.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 21, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Yes. One or two others are good too. Fuji are, depending on time of year and point of origin.

        I had a very good one that I had never heard of before earlier this year but can’t remember the name of it. It was available for a limited time only at my local Sam’s Club.

        Macintosh and Golden Delicious are disgusting, but usually there is at least one good variety of apple available pretty much any time I go to the supermarket.

    • Posted December 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      In the US, if you can still find the old “classic” varieties such as Haralson, Jonathan, Beacon, etc. they are (of course) still very good. I prefer these types because they are nice and tart (though not as tart as Granny Smiths — which are too tart for me, most of the time.)

      I often like Fujis, Galas, and Honeycrisps.

      Always avoid the dreaded Red “Delicious” (delicious is one thing they are not).

      I’m sure all readers know that apples do not breed true to seed and must be propagated by cuttings. So every extant apple type we use is a cultivar of some sort. IIRC, the ur-apple came from the mountains of central Asia.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted December 21, 2015 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        The corollary is that when Johnny Appleseed planted all those seeds, it wasn’t for table apples. It was for hard cider, the poor man’s beer in those days.

  8. Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    This is one of my minor peeves, also. What is the point? Damn nuisance is what they are. We get them on pears, apples, bananas. Is it just advertising?

    • Ecubed
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      These tags are so the checkout people can identify the fruit correctly. When I was a checkout person before college, every checker was required to know all the produce and was given checker tests at random. Soon people won’t be able to do anything for themselves. I was hiking last year with a paper map and two kids laughed at me – they were using GPS. Anyway, the tags may double as advertisement but the main purpose is to reduce error at the checkout. There is a small portion of the tag that doesn’t have adhesive to aid in removal but it doesn’t always work.

      • Richard
        Posted December 21, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        I’d rather have a paper map and magnetic compass than GPS: far less to go wrong!

        Once, many years ago (long before GPS), I was hiking as part of a well-equipped party in the Cairngorms (Scotland), and in a snowstorm we encountered a man on his own *without* map or compass (that’s THREE stupid omissions!).

        We offered that he could accompany us, but he simply wanted directions, and headed off again on his own. I have sometimes wondered if he got down off the mountain safely…

      • Posted December 21, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        And a GPS doesn’t do much for you without the map that goes with it! (IMO)

        I have done all of my navigating in “the woods” with a magnetic compass, topo map, and an analog pressure altimeter.

        Using these has an ancillary benefit of causing you to pay close attention to your surroundings — always a good idea, and to think about your route and what you should be seeing, etc.

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted December 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          What if the north/south poles switch, which they’ve done many times in the past, quite suddenly. 🙂

          Seriously, I wonder if anyone has looked at the biological effects of pole switching? It would probably mess up some migratory birds, at the very least. The magnetosphere protects us from dangerous, high energy, ionizing radiation, which we’d be exposed to for a time. That would be really, really bad.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      It’s a tag so the store can tally up the correct customer cost.

      Blame earlier customer complaints. You can’t make everyone happy.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Customer complaints, with a side-order of inadequate staff training. “What do you mean, Mr Blenkinsop? You can’t tell the difference between a Granny Smith and a Golden Delicious? Don’t you know anything about apples?”
        “I dunno, Boss. I only moved into Foods from Clothing yesterday. Wossnapple?”

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and locally they are required to tag ‘ecological’ fruit. [You know the kind, those who use twice as much of Earth’s resources to make according to statistics.]

      But they aren’t required over here, it seems the opportunity to add ads is part of the reason. [ http://www.svt.se/plus/artikelarkiv/varfor-sitter-det-etiketter-pa-alla-applen ]

    • Posted December 20, 2015 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      The worst is when they’re on tomatoes. Removing them frequently destroys the fruit.

  9. Stephen Barnard
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    At least make them edible.

  10. ecubed
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    These tags are so the checkout people can identify the fruit correctly. When I was a checkout person before college, every checker was required to know all the produce and was given checker tests at random. Soon people won’t be able to do anything for themselves. I was hiking last year with a paper map and two kids laughed at me – they were using GPS. Anyway, the tags may double as advertisement but the main purpose is to reduce error at the checkout. There is a small portion of the tag that doesn’t have adhesive to aid in removal but it doesn’t always work.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    It’s so the checker doesn’t have to be able to actually identify the produce and remember the price.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      My daughter was a bagger/checker at our local supermarket.

  12. ladyatheist
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Paper labels, get off my lawn!!!!

  13. Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    A lot of people think they are edible, but that is misleading.
    snopes.com/fruit-stickers-edible/

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      They are too edible. I eat a lot of them. Water mellon seeds, too, are edible. Neither are an improvement, but they can be eaten. Instead of fiddling, picking, getting them off the fingers and into the trash… just center them in your first bite to make it quick, imagine they’re not there, chew quickly, swallow and gone. Eaten.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        Once we adapt, we’ll probably balk at any attempt to replace them. Children will recoil in horror when presented with a non-labeled apple. “Mommy! Where’s the sticker?”

        A big advantage is that sewage systems and septic tanks worldwide have now begun to accumulate data for future anthropologists armed with bar code scanners.

  14. sue
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m guessing farmer’s markets are few and far between in Chicago in the winter, but during the warmer months, shopping at farmer’s markets is a sure way to avoid sticky tags–and produce wax, layers of middlemen, etc.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      We love our local farmer’s market which is located in Flint Michigan, of all places but it is excellent. Full of good food, and everyone is just happy happy happy.

      • jeffery
        Posted December 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        Yes- that’s my solution, too: buy at farmers’ markets- I’ve got a golden delicious apple I bought at a grocery store three months ago in my fridge, and it hasn’t even shriveled up, being waxed so heavily. When you run really hot water over them you can feel the wax pouring off. Also, I gave up on “red delicious” ones a long time ago as I ran across many that were obviously dyed to improve their appearance; they would actually stain your fingers.

        • Posted December 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

          Plus: Red “Delicious” simply aren’t.

  15. Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m saddened thinking that commercial apples taste less tart. I once spent three years living and working at Green Gulch Farm, part of San Francisco Zen Center. We had the best food!! Much of what we ate, we’d grown ourselves. Too bad I was bored out of my mind. I do long for the dream of quality food and meals with friends. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a small village in Europe, have a garden, and eat regularly with close friends? And to walk to small grocers? And go on walks with friends before and after meals? Eat apples and other fruit we’d grown? Charleen sighs . . .

  16. Richard Jones
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank your stars that they don’t appear on cherries and grapes. As for apples, once a year for a couple of weeks Russets appear in my favourite produce store. They are always delicious. I guess it may be because they can’t be stored so have to come from the tree to you.

  17. Posted December 20, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    These tags are a minor — *extremely* minor — annoyance IMHO. I have little difficulty removing them, so I don’t think they merit this level of ranting. Also, if you want an apple that is not mushy and tasteless, there are actually several commonly available commercial varieties, such as Braeburn, Fuji and especially Honeycrisp.

    • Posted December 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see Jerry’s post as a rant.

      And why shouldn’t he reveal a mundane thought?

      It’s a relief for me to see that not every post from a Harvard-trained biologist has to be about some deep. Besides it evoked names of apple varieties from you that I might look for the next time I’m at the store.

      • majo
        Posted December 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Recently my local supermarket in Maine has been stocking an apple variety called Snap Dragon. They’re the first apples I’ve found in the U.S. that fit my idea of the right flavor and texture for an eating apple.

        On the subject of fruit rants, though, can anyone tell me why it appears impossible to get unwaxed lemons here? Not even in Wholefoods, where I ended up buying organic lemons just in the hope that whatever got boiled into my glühwein would at least be edible.

  18. Posted December 20, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “I heard a few years ago that they were replacing them with laser-markings that just lightly scored the skin of the fruit, but that hasn’t appeared in the markets.”

    If they are going to potentially endanger the public with laser infused fruit they better label them.

    • Posted December 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      😃

    • rickflick
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Laser? !
      There has to a radiation hazard there somewhere.

      • Prof.Pedant
        Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Acronym:laser – “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” Yup! You are right – the word ‘radiation’ is in there. Which, because of the Law of Contagion*, makes anything touched by a laser a radiation hazard! (Oh Noes! My laser printer!)

        * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_contagion

  19. squidmaster
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I buy all my apples and pears at the local farmers markets in Portland (OR). They go year round and the local growers supply multiple varieties of apples and pear that have neither stickers nor wax nor ethylene ripening. I’ve been to the 61st street farmer’s market in Hyde Park (this past november) and found it had a nice selection. It was indoors when I was there, but I think is outside when the weather is less frightful.

  20. Posted December 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Those aren’t so bad, as labels go. The little tab doesn’t have any glue on it, so it should be easy to grasp and used to peel off the label.

  21. Taskin
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Very few apples are pie worthy these days. The tarter the better for pie, but the trend seems to be toward making sweet eating apples. I go crazy over those tags on pears since pears have very delicate skin that is invariably pulled off with the sticker. Grrr.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      +1

  22. GBJames
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I think those tags are plastic, not paper.

    I hate them.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      I suspect they’re not all made by the same company. Some may be paper, some may be plastic. Some have the non-adhesive tags for easy removal, some don’t.

  23. Posted December 20, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    My wife buys hers bagged (from Sainsbury’s, our largest supermarket chain), so no individual tags.

    I’m a banana man myself.

    /@

    • Posted December 20, 2015 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      I find the bags are a bad deal. There are usually several badly bruised or rotten or whatever pieces of fruit in them.

    • Posted December 20, 2015 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      PS – I also prefer bananas. I find them…comforting.

  24. Randy Schenck
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a shopper so know very little here. My other half tells me that often the label has country of origin and she says that can be important. They could put that on the shelf or someplace nearby but on some items it is important to know where it came from.

  25. mikeb609
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    There’s a song about this.

    “Stickers on fruit!
    Stickers on fruit!
    God I hate those stickers on fruit!”

  26. alexandra
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    AGREE completely. They make me so mad, they may be guilty of murder, suicide….totally stupid. Maybe we should all save them and send to….who? Who ordained these ghastly bits?
    Or maybe remove them and stick to the supermarket check out?

  27. reginaldselkirk
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Laser-tagging: Any break in the skin will result in browning due to the action of polyphenol oxidase. Perhaps when ‘arctic’ apples – a GMO product with a disabled PPO gene – gets on the market, they will be able to do that without risk of damage.

    Otherwise, we’ll have to breed apples to produce the sticker stripes naturally on their peel.

  28. Posted December 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    is the glue organic?

    does this make the food non-kosher or non-halal if it’s a hoof based glue?

    or non-vegan?

    • merilee
      Posted December 20, 2015 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      is the glue gluten-free?

  29. jrhs
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    No more stickers on apples? But…then it’d deprive me of more surprise of finding a rotten spot under the sticker? Twice so far.

  30. hacky dacky
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    We have a granny smith apple tree, so our apples come with worms (codling moth larvae) instead.

  31. Marilee Lovit
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Wild apples have no stickers. This year the crop was abundant. Fun to sample different trees and return to favorites.

  32. Roger
    Posted December 20, 2015 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand them either. How were they ever allowed to get away with this. It’s like putting stickers on ice cream cones. Not gonna happen. Hey I got an idea let’s put stickers on individual french fries.

  33. Mike
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Best Apple.? for me is Braeburn, grown in Spain & SA, excellent Apple eat em every Day.

  34. Deepsix
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Or you could do what I do – grow your own. I grow 12 varieties of apples (among MANY other types of fruit). No tags! Even most small yards can support a couple of dwarf sized trees. There are many disease resistant types that require little to no spray. Of course, you’ll be waiting 3 – 5 years for apples, but it’s worth it!

  35. Nancy
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Go back to bed Jerry. Maybe you’ve listened one too many time to the Carpenter’s “Rainy Days and Mondays”. The first line of the song is “Talkin to myself and feeling old.” That must be you.

    Most fruits and vegetables have these stickers on them. At the SELF check-out line, the numbers on these stickers tell me how much they cost.

    Just turn on 98.7 here in Chicago. A little classical music will put things in perspective. Let me know if you want to meet for lunch. I have MS and will tell you the kinds of things that are my pet peeves.

  36. Kevin
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Tags on shirts, too. They must be abolished.

    • Merilee
      Posted December 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      I love the new printed-on tags on shirts and pants.

  37. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    A little known fact: The FDA requires those stickers to be edible.

  38. Jo5ef
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree, I just had to peel 3 of them off the plum I was eating as I read this grrr

  39. Gregory Mills
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I am under the impression that these stickers are intended to track back sources of food-born illnesses.

    Haven’t seen that addressed here.

  40. Posted December 27, 2015 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    I hope you have a Merry Yuletide and a very Happy New Year Professor Coyne


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