Everything You Need to Know About Washing Produce
Posted on May 09 2019
There's no doubt a diet rich in fruit and vegetables helps combat the risk of chronic illnesses. But have you ever considered the ramifications of getting crops to your local supermarket that are neither grown in your area nor currently in season? We'll discuss how these implications have the potential to offset the benefits derived from eating produce in the first place. And if you've ever thought to yourself, "should I take the extra step to wash my produce?" you'll never doubt answering yes again.
Photo Courtesy of Clinton Kline
The Top 3 Reasons You Should Always Wash your Produce:
~Remember the 3 Ps: Pesticides, Pathogens, Preservatives~
1. Avoid pesticide intake at all costs.
Did you know that according to data from the Department of Agriculture, pesticide residue is found on nearly 70 percent of all produce sold in the United States? In fact, the majority of Americans affected by pesticide health cases are traced back to the consumption of food (1).
So, what are the implications of pesticides in our bodies? For starters, pesticides are designed as a poison and therefore have detrimental effects on our immune systems, liver functioning, nervous system and can even cause cancer. Additionally, when the pesticides we intake are not easily soluble, they bioaccumulate in our bodies and are persistent in generations to follow (2). This is also referred to as our chemical body burden- the accumulation of chemicals our bodies burden from the synthetics found in pesticides, heavy metals, and cosmetics (3). See why we are so passionate about plant-based home and body care.
And yes, consuming more USDA Organic certified produce than conventional is ideal to reduce overall pesticide intake, but be aware that there are still prohibited synthetic substances in organic production that can be toxic depending on the doses used. See the full list of approved substances.
Photo Courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
2. Prevent foodborne illness pathogens.
According to the Center for Disease Contol and Prevention, there are an estimated 48 million people that experience foodborne illness each year (4). Additionally, fresh produce is the leading cause of outbreaks, far surpassing meat, dairy, and seafood. This can largely be attributed to the open nature of farming which allows many routes for pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli to be introduced, commonly via contaminated soil and water (5).
Photo Courtesy of John Westrock
3. Your produce is preserved to get to your table.
The Food and Drug Administration passed the 2005 Sanitary Food Transportation Act as a result of unsanitary transportation practices leading to illness outbreaks. And in 2011 the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed to strengthen guidelines within the food safety system to further protect public health (6). These policies are important, as transportation remains the United States' largest contributing source of GHG emission and consumers year-round demand on fresh produce, undoubtedly contributes to this footprint (7).
Photo Courtesy of Michael Cereghino
Let's be honest, how many different apples did you pick up before choosing the perfect one? It's no surprise that studies show that consumers judge the quality of produce based primarily on appearance. This alone poses great challenges for farmers and producers. So, how do they overcome challenges such as discoloration, textural changes, and microbial spoilage when the produce travels such great distances? Producers preserve the characteristics crops have at their peak quality by using chemical treatments and wax preservatives to protect produce. Some grocers even disclose this to their customers such as Whole Foods seen here.
Here's What You Can Do:
1. Use produce wash!
The above reasons prove that although fruit and vegetables are extremely important for a healthy diet, produce is ultimately very susceptible to substances you do not want to enter your body. Therefore to obtain all the great health benefits derived from fruit and veggies, be sure to give them a good wash before consuming. Try our plastic-free Produce Wash that leaves no additional scent or flavor on your produce. And as always, you can trust Sea Witch Botanicals products to be safe for your health and the waterways.
2. Reference the Environmental Working Group's Clean and Dirty 15 Lists.
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that works to reduce toxic chemicals from our environment through advocacy, research, and policy. Each year, they test foods for pesticide residues and produce Clean Fifteen and Dirty Fifteen lists. This guide serves to inform consumers which crops have the highest and lowest concentrations of pesticides.
Lists Courtesy of the EWG
So all of that to say, don't forget to eat your fruit and veggies, but make sure to wash them first!
1. Environmental Working Group. (2019, March 20). EWG's 2019 shopper's guide to pesticides in produce. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php#dirty-dozen-plus
2. Hicks, B. (2012). Agricultural pesticides and human health [Case Study]. Retrieved from https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/pesticides.html
3. Beyond Pesticides. (n.d.) Pesticide-Induced Diseases: Body Burden. Retrieved from https://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-induced-diseases-database/body-burden
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Foodborne Illness and Germs. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
5. Kayla Murray, Fan Wu, John Shi, Sophia Jun Xue, Keith Warriner, Challenges in the microbiological food safety of fresh produce: Limitations of post-harvest washing and the need for alternative interventions, Food Quality and Safety, Volume 1, Issue 4, December 2017, Pages 289–301, https://doi.org/10.1093/fqsafe/fyx027
6. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2018, January 30). Background on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/background-fda-food-safety-modernization-act-fsma
7.The United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2019). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions