We all know that we should wash our fruits and vegetables before eating them to get the pesticides and dirt off. Many of us use just water to wash our produce, but have you ever stopped to consider that pesticides are designed to withstand the rain, so using just water may remove the surface dirt, but it won’t be very effective in removing the pesticides.
How bad can it be though? I remember my Mom washing her produce with just water, in fact she still does. Surely that must be good enough?
The Environmental Working Group, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, created a shopper’s guide to pesticides. They examined “nearly 51,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 and 2005 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
Contamination was measured in six different ways and crops were ranked based on a composite score from all categories.” Here are the best and the worst produce, based on their research:
12 Most Contaminated fruits and vegetables:
Peaches – Strawberries – Pears – Lettuce
Apples – Cherries – Bell Peppers – Spinach
Nectarines – Imported Grapes – Celery – Potatoes
12 Least Contaminated fruits and vegetables:
Onions – Sweet Corn – Cabbage – Mangoes
Broccoli – Asparagus – Avocados – Kiwi
Eggplant – Sweet peas – Pineapples – Bananas
An Environmental Working Group study found as many as 11 different pesticides on some sweet bell peppers and as many as 9 different pesticides on some apples, peaches, celery and lettuce. They found that eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day (Shopper’s Guide, EWG, 2008).
While the EWG stats suggest that eating the less contaminated fruits & vegetables is important, it is important to also realize that a good portion of the top 12 contaminated produce such as spinach, strawberries and apples provide our bodies with the nutrients we need. So keep eating your daily servings of fruits & vegetables but be sure to wash your produce before eating it.
You may think that it would be appropriate to wash your produce with regular dish soap or bleach, but the problem is that these household soaps have different properties and may contain undesirable chemicals. They can also be potentially hazardous if you eat them because they are designed for other purposes. These detergents also penetrate the skin of the produce, making it impossible for you to rinse them off. This is why the FDA does not recommend using soap or dishwashing produce for produce.
I use acidic water from my Alkal-Life water filtration system. (link to Alkal-Life page). It works in the same manner as vinegar, creating an acid environment to cleanse the surface of the fruit or vegetable. I can create both Alkaline water for drinking and Acidic water for cleaning with this system.
I can use the Acidic water to clean not only my fruits and vegetables, but also so much more, like kitchen counters, my skin- all without harsh chemicals.
There are also fruit and vegetable wash products you can purchase at a grocery store, like Nature’s Clean Fruit & Veggie Wash. I trust in the integrity in brand, but never really knew how it worked or how effective it was. So, I decided to ask a chemist at Frank T. Ross, the makers of Nature Clean non-toxic household cleaners.
How does the produce wash work?
Pesticides are complex oil based molecules that are primarily water-insoluble (meaning that washing alone will not remove them).
The surfactants (soap based, non-toxic ingredients) found in Nature Clean’s Fruit and Veggie wash and spray reduce the surface tension and help clean by loosening, emulsifying and holding surface residue in suspension so they can be easily rinsed away.
Not only does it help remove pesticides, it also helps remove other unwanted contaminants from handling such as human perspiration, oils, dirt and exhaust fumes from shipping and transportation.
Nature Clean Fruit and Veggie Wash will rinse off with water leaving behind produce as nature intended it.
How much of the pesticide residue is removed using Nature’s Clean Fruit and Veggie Wash?
Our products have been tested by an outside accredited laboratory to determine the bacteria and pesticide reduction. The testing carried out with Dichloran as an indicator based on 160 ppm was 97.5 %. Bacteria tested on string beans and grapes were in the above 96 % for coliform bacteria such as E.Coli, salmonella and staphylococcus.
Why should you use a natural cleaner?
There is much we don’t know about health problems that can result from pesticide exposure as many pesticides have never been tested on humans.
Nature Clean Fruit & Veggie Wash/Spray rinses away and does not leave an after taste or smell on the produce. It does not rinse away vitamins or minerals from the produce and does not add any fat or calories.
I usually have to wash my produce in 2-3 “loads”, I sort them by where they are grown- I wash the locally grown fruit together, the imported produce separate, and then the organic produce separately again. I’m paranoid that some of the pesticides from the imported produce may end up staying on some of the other produce… is this crazy?
If you’re more comfortable with this you can follow your routine however it’s probably not necessary. The percentage of bacteria and pesticides that remain on the product after being washed with the Fruit & Veggie Wash/Spray is extremely low.
Sometimes I end up leaving the produce soaking for 30 minutes to an hour- will they be any cleaner?
Soaking your produce for too long can, and probably will, lower the quality of the produce by affecting the water content of the particular item. You might also risk losing some water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Additionally our tests have shown no better removal for that length of time.
For most fruits & veggies we would recommend soaking for 5 minutes and then rinse under cool water.
For produce with a high surface area (lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, etc), soak for 10 minutes and then rinse. For hard surface produce such as apples, pears do not soak, apply the Nature Clean Fruit & Veggie Spray directly to the surface, rub and then rinse off. You can also use a vegetable brush in this process if you have one although it’s not required.
Nature Clean products are available at:
Loblaws/Zehrs/Real Canadian Superstore/Fortinos
OR you can find a store near you!