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Can CBD Help Prevent Food Waste?

strawberries feature

Tired of produce going bad before you can eat it? According to a new study, CBD may be able to help with that.

You’ve (probably) heard of CBD for anxiety or depression, CBD for skin conditions, maybe even CBD for allergies – but CBD for the produce aisle?

We’ve all been there. You come home with a carton of strawberries and end up tossing out the ones on the bottom of the carton because they’re covered in mold that you couldn’t see in the store. Or, maybe they look fine when you bring them home, but within a couple of days, they’re developing those nasty soft, brown spots.

It comes with the territory. Fruits and vegetables just don’t last forever, and the time between farm to store to your house doesn’t help. 

Most of us are aware of the annoyance of losing produce to microbes, but we only experience it on the micro-level. But take a trip over to the USDA’s official website and peruse their page on food waste if you want to get a sense of just how big a problem this is:

“In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. “

It’s hard to wrap the head around figures like “133 billion pounds” of food. The losses can be attributed to many reasons (like our unrealistic expectations of aesthetically perfect-looking produce) but molds and bacteria make up a significant part of the percentage of food spoilage.

Ugh. There isn’t one sweeping answer to the problem, but according to a new study, CBD’s antimicrobial properties may be able to help keep produce like strawberries fresh. 

The study found that CBD oil inhibited both yeast and mold growth on strawberries and that, consequently, strawberries treated with CBD oil had better overall quality compared to non-treated fruit.

Building on previous research on CBD’s microbial properties, researchers at the University of South Florida conducted an experiment to find out if CBD would help keep strawberries fresh for longer.

For the study, the researchers applied CBD oil to freshly harvested strawberries and then stored them at 1°C for eight days and 10 °C for eight days. They then evaluated the strawberries for both visual quality and microbial load before and during storage.

According to the study, “CBD oil was effective at maintaining the visual appearance of strawberries, above the minimum threshold of a visual rating score of 3, compared to the fruit that was not treated. It was also found that CBD oil was effective at reducing the microbial load on treated strawberries compared to fruit that was not treated.” 

Now, before you get too worked up at the thought of the grocery industry jumping on this research and beginning to sprinkling down the produce with CBD – it’s not going to happen. CBD is too expensive, for one thing (although, so is dumping out fruits and veggies that spoil before they could be sold.)

It’s also highly unlikely that the average American consumer would be excited about the prospect of buying produce covered in unknown quantities of cannabinoids. (And the FDA would balk at the mere suggestion.)

The authors of the study stress that the results are preliminary and only point out (as a possible application of the research) that consumers could use CBD at home as a postharvest treatment to make their fruit last longer.

It is, however, another indication of CBD’s antimicrobial properties, which are possibly one of the most exciting potential applications of the cannabinoid to date (which is saying something). There is evidence that not only is CBD as potent as many common antibiotics – but that bacteria are unable to form resistance to it.

So you’ll be hearing more about CBD’s microbial properties, whether or not the grocery industry can make direct use of it on our produce. 

But the next time you bring home some fruit from the farmer’s market (or grocery store), there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a quick spritz of CBD to see if you can make it last a bit longer.

And don’t be surprised if the next big thing for sale in the produce aisle is CBD-infused veggie wash.

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