cleaning your veggies 101
The Best Way to Wash Your Produce
Individuals who are aware of the many dangers of consuming chemical contaminants in food are often in an uphill battle of trying to find as many functional ways to avoid exposure in the food we eat. Although we cannot fix the broken regulatory system in place to protect us in the agricultural industry, we can do everything in our power to avoid exposure levels. Two questions that come up often in the health community about dodging chemicals in food are: How effective is washing produce to remove pesticides and herbicides? What is the best and safest way to clean your produce?
Researchers from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station conducted tests and compared the results of the chemical residue levels left over after different methods of cleaning was conducted on a variety of produce. They used FIT Fruit & Vegetable Wash, Organiclean, Vegi-Clean, dishwashing soap, baking soda, vinegar, and tap water. The study found that pesticide residue was reduced for 9 out of the 12 pesticides tested for, and it showed nearly the same results for all cleansing methods used. Some of the removed pesticides weren’t water-soluble, meaning the pesticides weren’t being dissolved in water, but rather, mechanically pushed off the produce by the force of running water as well as the mechanical actions of rubbing. These results show that cleaning your produce enhances the removal of pesticides on plant foods, and using your hands to physically scrub the produce will help too. Soaking and rinsing in vinegar is one of the more popular ways to clean produce, but unfortunately, it has been shown to remove mineral and vitamin content, as well as leave an uninviting smell and taste behind on the produce itself. The results also show that there is no precise way to clean your produce but that whatever your preferred method of cleaning is and what works best for you, is encouraged. Cleaning your produce is just as important as sourcing your produce, and should definitely be a top priority in your kitchen.
Although washing your produce is very important, not all pesticide residues can be washed off. Pesticides found in fruit and vegetables contain different types of properties and are absorbed into the plant in different ways. Specific pesticides called systemic pesticides are soaked up into the plant's roots by growing in contaminated soil. An example of a chemical that is systemic is glyphosate, one of the most widely used chemicals in the agricultural system. Systemic pesticides are a huge epidemic. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides in the US, and tends to hold each chemical “innocent until proven guilty”. Since there is not “enough” scientific research on the effects on systemic pesticides, they are still being used in the agricultural system today. In contrast, the European regulatory agency tends to be more cautious and has limited (and banned in some countries) systemic pesticides from the agricultural distribution system. The studies done on systemic pesticides include a wide range of negative health effects, not only on human health but has shown that these types of pesticides are environmentally damaging as well. Consuming pesticides has been shown to lead to cardiovascular diseases, hormone disruption, and forms multiple types of cancers. Systemic pesticides have been linked to colony losses in honeybees, worms, some birds, and other pollinator species.
The future of clean agricultural practices in the farming industry seems bleak and can be disheartening. Starting in your own backyard, we can learn about healthy alternatives to toxic pest control, and share these tips with your community around you. Growing your own food is a guarantee of chemical-free produce, but it is not always an option. Purchasing your produce at your local grocery store from farms that use ‘responsible sourcing’ is crucial. When farms use ‘responsible sourcing’, it means that they know what type of materials, including chemicals, are in their product. The farms that we purchase food from should know what types of pesticides are being used on their crops, and how much is being used on each crop. Get to know your farmers around you, and don't be afraid to reach out and ask questions. In the meantime, we are left to do what we can do to avoid pesticide exposure. One of our goals at TestSharing is to bring transparency to these agricultural practices, as well as recommend trustworthy and safe food brands. There are many functional ways to avoid toxins in our food, and cleaning your produce is one of them. Continue to discuss with your loved ones and your community how to stay toxin-free and safe!