Washing your vegetables and fruit is a common practice, but why is it important? The main reason is that food producers are using a higher amount of pesticides, fungicides and all the other “-cides” to protect their produce against pests.
The problem is that those chemicals are not good for our health. Farmers that came in contact with several of those toxic compounds developed asthma or other allergies and even died.
Although the direct exposure to these protectives is more hazardous than the residue on the food, it is not without risk. Additionally, if the produce is sprayed with several different chemicals the compounding effects are still unaccounted for.
To begin with, usually, researchers say that the levels of pesticide residues are below the maximum allowed of residue, so it’s safe to eat the food to begin with.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on how those maximum residue levels are determined. (Send me a message if you have anything on this!)
Despite that, washing your vegetables and fruit is still recommended and scientists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment station compared different washing techniques and products.
They compared washing produce with normal tap water to a soap solution with 1% PalmOlive and several commercial produce washers.
The results were a bit surprising. They couldn’t detect any differences between washing with tap water and using the soap solution or the commercial washers. They concluded that using normal tap water is enough and that consumers can save their money for commercial produce washers.
Besides that they found out that some of the pesticides are actually not water soluble and that not the water washed them off, but rather the mechanical rubbing process.
The recommended to wash produce for at least 30 seconds under running water, while rubbing the surface of the vegetables with your hand or with a vegetable brush.
Other recommendations include soaking vegetables, especially if they have lots of nooks and crannies, like broccoli, in water for 1-2 minutes and then rinsing them off.
Another misconception is the use of pesticides in organic agricultural. While many people think there are no pesticides in organic farming, that’s not the case. Although they often use different, maybe less aggressive pesticides, they are still used to treat the plants.
So going for organic vegetables might be an option, but it is still recommended to wash those vegetables as well.
There are a few other things you should remember when preparing food, for example, to wash your hands before and after handling your food and to clean your knives and cutting boards between foods, especially when cutting mushrooms or meat.
If you want to avoid pesticides at all you should think about growing your own vegetables. If you can’t do that just stick to common sense and simple hygiene rules.
Steps to take:
- Check the official dirty dozen list here (LINK).
- Always wash your vegetables and fruit. As I mentioned, tap water is enough.
- Go for organic vegetables, but wash them as well.