Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Washing Away Pesticides

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Washing Away Pesticides

Article excerpt

Our June 1997 cover story ("How to Avoid Pesticides") described how researchers at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, eliminated or substantially reduced the residues on 17 popular fruits and vegetables using simple washing techniques. Dozens of readers wrote or e-mailed us with washing and other pesticide questions. Among the most common:

How exactly was the produce washed to remove the pesticides?

"For grapes, strawberries, green beans, and leafy vegetables, we swirled the foods in a dilute solution of Palmolive dish detergent and water at room temperature for 5 to 10 seconds, then rinsed with slightly warm water," says the Institute's Herb Schattenberg. The researchers used about one teaspoon of detergent per gallon of water.

"For the other fruits and vegetables, we used a soft brush to scrub the food with the solution for about 5 to 10 seconds, then rinsed again with slightly warm water," he adds.

Why weren't oranges and lettuce included in the "Best & Worst Dressed List" of pesticide ratings?

Because the data made both look much worse than they really are. The pesticide analysis included the rinds and the outer leaves. While that's where most residues are found, few people eat them.

How clean are ready-to-eat bags of lettuce and other vegetables?

"They have not been systematically studied for pesticide contamination," reports Jim Hurst, a food scientist at the University of Georgia. "But since these vegetables are usually washed at least twice in the processing plant before packaging," he adds, "they probably contain less pesticide residues than lettuce and vegetables that people prepare in their homes."

But don't confuse washed and bagged lettuce with bag-your-own bulk mixed greens. Bacteria-contaminated bulk greens were the cause of a 1996 food poisoning outbreak that sickened 61 people in Connecticut, Illinois, and New York. …

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