Understanding and changing how banana peels brown could help the world save tons of food that go to waste each year, according to a new study published in “Physical Biology.”

The researchers looked at the root cause of browning in bananas and other fruit typically found in someone’s home. They found that the browning process is caused by enzymes and air reactions. Although this is a known fact, there have been no efforts in the past to observe how this process can be controlled. The researchers now say browning can be stopped by genetic modification and proper storage of fruit.

Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas

One of the ways proposed by the researchers is storing bananas in cooled containers under a modified atmosphere. The researchers also found that the formation of spots could be slowed down by decreasing oxygen in their formation sites. 

Browning of fruit, including bananas, leads to an estimated 50 million tons of food waste every year. With the world grappling with food security, the researchers say losses could be prevented. Bananas are among the universally accepted foods and are produced massively across the world. Saving bananas from browning could increase food security for the world at large.

“For 2019, the total production of bananas was estimated to be 117 million tons, making it a leading crop in the world,” says Oliver Steinbock, lead author of the research. “When bananas ripen, they form numerous dark spots that are familiar to most people and are often used as a ripeness indicator. However, the process of how these spots are formed, grow, and their resulting pattern remained poorly understood, until now.”

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Florida State University, led by Steinbock. Over time, Steinbock found that it is possible to protect fruit from turning brown as fast as they do.

“Fruit browning continues to be a major challenge for the food industry. Our study offers a model for banana spotting which is capable of capturing their evolution in a physically meaningful context and which can be applied to procedures to mitigate food waste,” Steinbock said.

Via Natural History Museum

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