Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Produce Clean Up: Pesticide Removal?

Cleaning our produce is a must!

  Last week while refreshing both my memory and yours on the ins and outs of the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen, I came to a realization:

   I do a terrible job washing my produce!

  No matter if we buy organic or conventional (chemical) produce, there's still a great need to wash it before we eat it. While organic produce rids us of most pesticide worry, the necessity to wash all our fruits and vegetables remains ever-present.

  Whether it'd be washing away pesticides, dirt, germs, bacteria or all of the above, we need to clean our produce prior to biting into it. I know I am guilty, from time to time, of grabbing an apple, running it under water for .2 seconds (or sometimes not at all), buffing it on a towel or my shirt, and chomping into it. Actually, I used to do it all the time!

  But really, what does that do? Next to nothing.

  We can wash pesticide residues and bacteria off. But it definitely takes a little more than a rinse and a buff.

  Following a few healthy habits can potentially reduce pesticide residue by 75%, and lower virus and bacteria presence by 90-95%. And all it takes is a few more minutes, and a couple extra scrubs!

The Roads Our Produce Travels
  Pesticides are meant to survive through rainy weather and watering, that's why farmers use them!  So obviously all pesticide residue cannot be removed, nor can they be removed when they've seeped through the skin, and into the fruits and vegetables themselves (why buying organic produce is ideal).

Pesticides: can we get rid of them?
  And what about viruses and bacteria the produce picks up as it is transported from farm to grocery store? Sitting in bins, being touched by countless hands, think about where our healthy snack or dinner salad has been!

  I don't know why, but that had never really dawned on me til now. But as I think about it, I realize just how important washing my produce can be.

  Let's make our fruits and veggies even healthier (and probably taste better) by ditching the things we can get rid of!

The Study
  Not shockingly, simply running our fruit and veggies under water for a few seconds really isn't very effective. But it doesn't require too much more effort to make all the difference in the world.

  A comparison of pesticide removal methods (on 196 samples of lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes) at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in 2000 showed that rinsing the produce under tap water for one minute, and treating produce with either a 1% solution of Palmolive dish soap or a fruit and vegetable wash, all produced roughly the same results.

  Tap water rinsing, and soap and wash products all 'significantly reduced' residues of 9 of 12 pesticides. The study went on to detail that water temperature was not the key, but friction was. Scrubbing the produce under tap water is likely the most effective method, and is likely most responsible for removing pesticide residues.

Careful cleaning's important!
Suggested Cleaning Method
  How can we effectively wash pesticides, bacteria, and virus traces off our fruit and veggies?

  Overall, the most effective method, according to the research, is to wash, and lightly scrub, produce with a vinegar solution (one part vinegar to three parts water), and then rinse with tap water for at least 30 seconds. The vinegar mixture reduced bacteria by 90%, repelled viruses by about 95%, while reducing residues of 75% of the pesticides.

  Keeping a spray bottle handy with your vinegar solution is a convenient way to make rinsing more efficient.

Effective Methods:
  -Mix 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar (3:1 ) in a spray bottle.
  -Spray on fruits and veggies to get rid of pesticide residue.
  -Rinse with water after spraying.
  -Fill a bowl with water and add 1/8 to 1/2 cup of vinegar, depending on the size of your bowl.
  -Place your fruits and veggies in the bowl.
  -Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse with water.

  At the very least, rinse and scrub!

  There are obvious advantages that carefully cleaning our produce has: not ingesting pesticides, and removal of many harmful bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. I'm a little ashamed that I've never really thought of these benefits until recently.

  Let's give our produce, and our own health, a little extra attention, and make our healthy snacks even healthier!



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