washing produce

Chances are, even if you’re trying to eat healthy, occasionally, you consume food that has been exposed to pesticides. As the name implies, pesticides kill harmful organisms, such as insects, rodents, and weeds, so they do not eat the crops that the pesticide is sprayed on. However, many people are wondering just how safe these pesticides are for people who eat the food. There is some evidence to suggests that pesticides, in the wrong amounts, can be harmful and even fatal to humans. Therefore, finding ways to cleanse food after the ‘necessary evil’ of pesticides is a top concern.

While the recognition of pesticide ingestion as a problem is clear, what is less so is the best way to clean off pesticides to make the food they once protected safer for human consumption. As with many other situations, there are some partially effective solutions and some that make absolutely no difference at all. When it comes to protecting your health, it’s important to be as informed as possible. With that being said, when it comes to getting harmful chemicals off of your fruits and vegetables, there are many things you need to keep in mind.

Water Isn’t Enough

rinsing produce

More than likely, you rinse off your apples, pears, and such before you eat them. This will undoubtedly help get the wax off, as well as remove any harmful substances that happen to be on the fruit in question. There’s some truth to this. That being said, it is unrealistic to expect even a thorough washing of three to five minutes or more to remove all of the pesticides present on fruit. Water cannot remove every trace of pesticide from fruit on its own. It’s an excellent place to start, but generally, effectiveness is dependent on the fruit being washed.

So, if water isn’t enough, then what is? Perhaps you have heard of veggie wash? There are some mixed reviews about it as well. While it is effective at taking care of dirt and wax, there is little to be said about their effectiveness regarding pesticides. Neither the FDA nor USDA recommends switching to veggie wash use. If you decide to change to a veggie wash, however, you’re better off making your own; not only is the effectiveness questionable, the commercial versions costlier, and may seep into the fruit itself, defeating the purpose of washing at all.

Natural Alternative?

Natural Alternative

If water is not enough, and commercial vegetable washes are no good, what is the solution? Well, to listen to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the answer is to use sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda, in conjunction with water. The most significant drawback is that it may take longer than one is willing to wait; in one study, soaking fruits in a water and baking soda solution caused the pesticides being used in the study to break down. While about ten minutes made a significant difference, this process took approximately fifteen minutes for the most significant effect.

While that’s well and good, it may be a little early to celebrate. This particular study covered one type of fruit, Gala apples, against the two pesticides phosmet and thiabendazole. While the solution may have proven effective under these circumstances, there is no guarantee that this will be the result regarding all fruits and vegetables when it comes to removing all of the different types of pesticides. Still, this suggests some very promising things when it comes to the world of healthy eating. Keep in mind that pesticides can sometimes seep into fruit too, where washing solutions can’t always reach.



While the fruit may not be 100% clear because the harmful chemicals end up leaching into a fruit’s skin and flesh, you can still rest assured that the food is at least somewhat safer than it would be otherwise. After all, there is only so much room for harmful substances inside a given piece of fruit; there is a limit to how toxic they can become. While this may seem like cold comfort, again, you’re still better off rinsing your vegetables, because at the very least you can do away with the surface germs and pesticides.

Organic Solutions

Organic Solutions

Generally, organic is another word for ‘healthy’, and it’s easy to see why: when it comes to the treatment of food, producers of organic food supplies tend to use fewer chemicals or controversial methods. Organic is the way to go if you’d like to minimize your exposure to pesticides and other potentially harmful substances. Strict regulations prevent the use of conventional pesticides; as a result, organic produce generally is protected by more vigorous, interventionist style pest control. Still, there are other vectors by which pesticides can end up in organic produce- these are simply less direct most of the time.

Regulations for organic food mean ‘less’ pesticides and ‘safer’ ones. While this translates into less pesticide residue, it is by no means ‘no pesticide residue’. Even if this were the case, there is another factor to consider. All crops need water to grow, and sometimes pesticides get into the water supply. In this case, pesticides get fed into the crops, as opposed to being sprayed on; unfortunately, that’s not something you can just soak out, or wipe away. Chances are unless you grow your own food from scratch, you won’t get away from pesticides completely, and maybe not even then.

If you’re stuck relying on shopping, as most of us are, there are still some smarter choices you can make in regards to your purchases. For starters, you can make it a point to avoid the “Dirty Dozen.”. This list of food refers to a list of foods that are most commonly found with significant levels of pesticides in them. Essentially, if you have to buy these foods, it is imperative that you buy the organic versions of them to minimize your risk, something that is somewhat less necessary for fruits and vegetables that are not on this list.

The Danger of Pesticides

Danger of Pesticides

You might be wondering if pesticides are serious enough to be concerned about at all. There are, after all, some scientific advances that fall prey to rumors and panic. However, the case of pesticides, there is recent evidence that suggests we ought to look into a better means of pest control. They are not only thought to be harmful to human health (especially in the case of the workers who handle them) but can also harm the environment. Currently, its thought pesticides cause delayed effects on human health, which suggests they may be a significant threat only in high doses.

Related: 15 Clean Foods You Don’t Need To Buy Organic

Ultimately, at this time, it’s up to you to decide what’s best. Organic foods are usually more expensive, but they are thought to be cleaner than standard fare; that being said, the risk of pesticides has yet to be fully evaluated, though there is strong evidence of adverse health effects. While the levels for such are way above the amount of pesticide used, there are still margins for both error and risk. If you’re worried, shop local, or grow your own food. The closer you are to your source of produce, the more information you have to make good choices.



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