andrew schneider investigates

February 8, 2008

Spray, dip or wash?

Filed under: Food Safety,Pesticides — Andrew Schneider @ 09:30

Readers worried about pesticides continue asking about the best methods to clean fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating and the effectiveness of the commercial sprays. I’ve read three studies on the more popular sprays for home use. The reports were glowing, the results dramatic, bugs, pesticides and other things you wouldn’t want to eat disappear. That may be the case. However, skeptic that I am, I couldn’t help noting that the studies, which were done by experienced university-based food scientists, were funded in part or completely by the companies making the products. It’s up to you ro determine whether this impacts the value of the studies.

But for your reading pleasure, I’ll offer up four “how to clean your food” guides from the FDA, from the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the ever popular and all knowing Food Network.

This Q & A from Ohio State University, offers some information on the sprays and on using household products to do it yourself.

Q. I have seen special sprays in the grocery store. Are they just expensive water?

A. No. Many of these sprays include surfactants. Surfactants are cleaning agents that attach to oil and dirt and loosen water-resistant substances for quick removal. These work with water by decreasing surface tension and creating emulsification or a lifting action.

Q. I have heard that a variety of items could be used when washing fruits and vegetables. Is this true?

A. There are times when using chlorine bleach (for example, after flooding) is recommended to clean fruits and vegetables, but most homemade cleaning solutions will change the flavor of your food.

Baking soda: Baking soda may leave behind sodium which may affect the flavor of the produce. Baking soda and water mixtures vary greatly in cleaning ability.

Vinegar: Vinegar may leave a residual aftertaste.

Dish Soap: Dish soap has not been approved by the FDA for cleaning fruits and vegetables. Soap has not been developed for people to eat.

Chlorine Bleach: Mixtures of chlorine bleach and water should be avoided on food because they may be toxic if too concentrated and may alter the taste of the produce

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