For the love of all that is healthy, wash your f*!king produce.

In all seriousness, now that you eat a cup of veggies with every meal (you are doing this right?), and have a stockpile of delectable produce in your fridge, you MUST MUST MUST learn the zen of bathing your produce.

“What the hell? Why do I have to give my produce a bath?”

First of all, the life cycle of produce has MANY stages. It doesn’t just appear in the supermarket direct from the tree/plant/vine (whatever). That apple you ate on the way home from the shop has also been man handled by every Tom, Dick and Harry in the system and, statistically speaking, one of them (probably Dick) came to work with the flu.

Actually, one of the most common contaminants found on store bound fruit and vegetables is human perspiration.

Sexy Farmer

Yummo!
(Picture is a dramatization of how actual produce is farmed.)


But even before Dick got his sweaty palms on your delectable apple, it was growing off of a tree grown in dirt. Yup, dirt. You know, that stuff you used to eat as a kid, right? That seems pretty innocuous until you read more on the history of agriculture and what has to be done to the soil year after year to sustain mass production of those buxom peaches and strawberries we all adore.

sexy strawberry

You, dirty, dirty berry…

I’m neither a farmer nor an activist, so I cannot tell you exactly how and why this is allowed to happen, but by the time you pick out the perfect bunch of grapes at your local Stop & Shop they are covered in approximately 15 different toxins including, but not limited to, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides; all of which are designed to annihilate adorable Pixar critters, keeping them from burrowing into your perfectly plump perishables.

Pixar

“Oh, hello.”

Water alone can only remove about 98% of bacteria, but not necessarily the most harmful ones, or most of the food-borne illnesses and pesticide residues. (Remember, most of the pesticide/fungicide treatments are designed to withstand irrigation and rain.) Here’s a list of some of the greatest hits that maybe lurking on your properly ‘rinsed’ produce…

Organophosphates – Recent studies have come out in the last two years that have linked exposures to organophosphate pesticides with increased risks of ADHD and lower IQ in children, and to low birth weight and early gestation among newborns.

Organochlorines – Most organochlorine pesticides were widely applied in the 1940s through 1970s but withdrawn from use after studies revealed them to be highly toxic to people and wildlife. They are highly persistent in the environment and still pollute produce grown in contaminated soils.

E. coli – There are about six pathotypes of E.coli associated with foodborne illness, the most common being STEC. E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia. There are roughly 265,000 of reported* cases of infection per year.

Salmonella – Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Every year, approximately 42,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported* in the US.

*Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of food borne illness infections may be twenty-nine (or more) times greater than what is listed above.

Oh and side note, something else that may make you literally shit your pants…(drumroll please). Due to the improper use of broad spectrum antibiotics to treat common illnesses and plump up livestock, there is a new antibiotic resistant strain of salmonella named Salmonella Heidelberg. Around 400 people have been infected with this new super bug (for which there is no treatment) and it is so terrifying that on October 24th, 2013 MEXICO banned the import of US chicken coming from specific producers!?!

uncle_sam_chicken

Arriba Mexico, arriba.

Horrified yet? You probably should be.

“Ok! Ok. So what do I do now?”

Ugh, bad news first. FOOD is an industry that is not just big, it’s Monsanto BIG. Monsanto is best known for its well-deserved, shitty legacy of environmental damage and government coercion. Its lesser known achievements include being one of the major producers of both DDT and Agent Orange, creator of Celebrex, and inventor of Astro Turf – Yes, I said INVENTOR of Astro Turf.

All of that is to say Monsanto has its hands in just about everything, including your mouth.

Basically, Monsanto (and/or one of its subsidiaries) controls some portion of every food item coming in and out of the US.

jasonmirror1

I’m pretty sure if you stare at yourself in the mirror and say “Monsanto”
these guys come and terrorize you.

The good news is, even though us meager humans are often carelessly considered collateral damage in the wake of whatever new shit storm companies like Monsanto have in store for us, there are always useful strategies out there for the little people.

Buy Organic (and Local if possible)

Organic isn’t perfect but it is far better than not buying organic. I know, it’s more expensive, but as the demand for organic grows the prices between organic and non-organic will get closer and closer and probably meet somewhere in the middle. The main benefit is that organic produce is grown without synthetic pesticides and preservative chemicals (ironically, you are paying more to have less industry wind up on your food). AND several well-designed (but lesser known) US studies have also shown that organic produce contains anywhere between 10-30% more nutrients than conventional crops.

Local means your food didn’t have to travel as far and therefore wasn’t exposed to as many transitional stages – from trucks and exhaust fumes, storage facilities, to border crossings/inspections, and all of the hands that touched it in between. Once picked, produce begins to lose its nutritional value. Less time between harvest and your mouth means more bang for your buck.

If buying EVERYTHING organic is overwhelming, too costly, or supply is limited in your area, you can focus on only buying the most ‘at risk’ produce organically. Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen Plus list clarifies which fruits and veg are often being sold to you with over 11 different contaminates at no extra charge!

Produce Bath

Finally, the best rule of thumb is to wash ALL of your produce in a mild soap and water solution. I will preface the following with this statement: The FDA, CDC and EWG do not specifically recommended washing your produce in anything but water.

My assumption is this is out of precaution that some people may wind up using a solvent that is equally as harmful as the chemicals already on the fruit or veg. I’ve seen some blog posts about people soaking their produce in bleach and other toxic concoctions so I realize it is possible that people are just that dumb. That being said…

Here’s how we do it in the Bergmann household:

First, you will need to choose a soap that doesn’t contain more harmful chemicals than the nasty on the fruits and veg you are going to wash in it… don’t be dumb.

We use this:
planet dish soap

The EWG gave Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid an A rating.

You will need a sturdy BPA free bucket (or other adequately sized vessel). Fill it with cool water and a pea sized amount of dish soap.

bucketswirl

Our bucket came from Eric’s father and is probably 40+ years old.
They really don’t make things like they used to…

Next, submerge and swirl produce in the mild soapy solution for 30 seconds. Swirling i.e. gentle agitation is key for removing stubborn residues and waxes.

Remove produce from bucket, rinse thoroughly under cool running water, and set to dry before storing.

dryingfruit

Done! Now you can eat your produce without fear… happy swirling.

 
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