The Best Way to Clean Your Produce
Recently a fine young gentleman asked me the best way to clean pesticides from produce. We get a fair bit of interest about pesticides and ways to clean produce, so we decided to feature the reply to the question as a blog post.
The quick answer is that there is no reliable way to remove pesticides from produce.
However, there are other reasons to consider techniques of cleaning your fruits and vegetables; dirt and bacteria for example.
The recent articles we’ve written on the topic highlight the Environmental Working Group’s annual review of pesticides levels on produce. It’s important to note that all produce was washed and in some cases peeled prior to testing.
Apples, for example, still showed pesticides in 93% of conventional apples even after they had been washed.
Some pesticides residues remain in part because they are incorporated into the produce during the growing process itself. They are within the produce, not just on the surface.
A couple points I want to highlight here. First, EWG states that you can avoid close to 80% of pesticide consumption by avoiding the produce listed in their Dirty Dozen, or opting to select organic varieties of those foods.
However, if the option is not available to you most experts agree that the health benefits of eating conventionally grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.
Once we get past the issue of pesticides, potentially harmful microbes are good reasons to take a look at your washing routine.
NPR reported some findings from the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated. They found that a scrub brush removed 85 percent of the bacteria — a little more than the water alone.
But the cleaning method that worked the best was a dilute vinegar rinse (3 parts water, 1 part vinegar). It removed 98 percent of the bacteria.
For smooth and harder fruits prepare a spray bottle with the rinse and use enough to coat your produce. Then rinse the produce under cold water to remove any residual vinegar flavor.
For produce with crevices, like broccoli, consider soaking in a solution for a couple of minutes, then rinse well.
What about Produce Washes?
Currently there appears to be no real research available on the efficacy of commercially available produce washes and because pesticides are incorporated into more than the surface EWG doubts their impact would be significant.
The FDA also advises against their use because they haven’t evaluated the safety of the residues the washes could leave behind and there is currently no standardization to the process.
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