Is it possible to wash pesticides off produce?

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FOOD  |  7.28.15  |  by Julie Rhodins

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You can wash pesticides off produce with a vinegar wash - but that probably won't remove all pesticides.

Photo: YouTube/Honestly Healthy Food

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According to Environmental Working Group‘s 2015 report on Pesticides in Produce, 99 percent of apple samples, 98 percent of peaches, and 97 percent of nectarines tested positive in EWG’s tests for at least one pesticide residue in these conventionally grown fruits.  The group also found the average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce, and many other veggies and fruits contained up to 15 pesticides.  Since EWG began reporting on pesticides in fruits and vegetables, there has been an increase in not only buying organic produce to avoid this pesticide load but also there has been a proliferation in all sorts of commercial and home washes that say you can wash pesticides off produce.  Is this possible?

Read on for info and recommendations 

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The truth of washing off pesticides

Says EWG “Since some plants absorb pesticides systemically, a produce wash would have limited effect.” So, essentially, you might have some effect with a produce wash to remove external residue, but it won’t wash off the pesticides integrated into the plant.

Here’s more from the Pesticide Action Network

Unfortunately, washing food (while important) is unlikely to be of much help — before testing, USDA washed & peeled their samples just as you would. And some pesticides, like imidacloprid, are “systemic,” meaning they are taken up by a plant’s roots and distributed throughout the plant, so no amount of washing will remove them. This class of pesticides has been on the rise for the last 15 years, and now represents a new, unstudied and unregulated avenue of risk.

Systemic pesticides play a major role in dietary risk exposure in the U.S. According to one analysis, systemic insectides account for about 60% of dietary risk in domestic crops.

Included in this class of pesticides are genetically engineered crops like Bt corn, which express an endotoxin that is likewise impossible to wash off. The average ear of U.S.-grown corn likely has 3 different systemic insecticides coursing through its tissue. Corn is in many ways the backbone of the U.S. food system as cattlefeed, high-fructose corn syrup, and a variety of other processed food products.

This would mean that the best way to avoid harmful pesticides would be to buy organic whenever possible.  And the Pesticide Action Network says that “within days of switching to organic fruits and vegetables, many pesticides clear from children’s bodies.”

How to wash your produce

If you have bought organic produce, you likely will just need to wash it under running cool water and nothing else unless you need a scrubbing brush to remove dirt, like scrubbing your potatoes.

For conventional produce, you can also remove outer leaves from greens that would be most exposed to pesticides, peel some fruits and vegetables, and give some produce a good scrub — all as additional precautionary measures.

If you’re going to use a produce wash, most organizations recommend you use a soaking mix of water and vinegar instead of purchasing additional chemicals.  In all the articles and videos we saw, there does not seem to be a consensus of how much vinegar to use.  One aggressive recommendation was 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.  Most vinegar/water washes have you soaking the veggies or fruits for several minutes, so make sure they get rinsed in running water after the soak to wash away any loose residue.

Do not use dish soap or other soap not intending for food.

Here’s a quick video from the U.K.’s Natasha Corrett to demonstrate a vinegar/water produce wash —

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Have you moved more toward organic to avoid pesticides?

Let us know in the comments below 

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FIND MORE: Food, cleaning, safety, shopping tips, Environmental Working Group, vegetables, Pesticide Action Networkfruits, nontoxicorganic

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2015-08-24T13:21:29+00:00