Keep Your Family’s Food Supply Safe

A simple rinse in cool, clean water renders fruits and vegetables ready to eat.

By FamilyTime


Eat more fruits and vegetables! Don’t buy processed food! Buy food in season and buy it as close to its natural state as possible!

All of the above are good tips. But there still is a lingering question when you buy fresh fruits and vegetables: Are they safe to eat or are they drenched with pesticides?

The Down and Dirty Truth

Unfortunately, many of the fruits and veggies in our markets are highly contaminated with chemicals, some from direct spraying and some from residue in the soil. This residue is found in earth that may have been exposed to pesticides for years, long before farming practices were as regulated as they now are.

Some produce is worse than others, and in general if the fruit or vegetable was grown in the United States, it’s apt to be a little safer that food trucked or flown in from elsewhere. But it’s no guarantee. For instance, American-grown peaches are about as bad as it gets; peaches from Chile, while still polluted, are a better choice.

Environmentalists have a list of the 12 worst fruits and vegetables to buy, calling the list the Dirty Dozen. On the list are:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Imported grapes
  • Carrots
  • Pears

    Some think potatoes and raspberries should be on the list, but you get the idea. These products are covered with pesticides, most commonly methyl parathion, dieldrin, and iprodione, to name a few.

    The Good News

    The good news is that it’s very easy to get rid of the chemical residues as well as any bacteria on our fruits and vegetables. Rinse them with water. Period.

    The FDA and other experts say that a good dunk or several rinses in drinkable water (for most of us that means tap water) does the trick. If the fruit or veggie lends itself to scrubbing with a brush (think potatoes and carrots), use one. If not (think peaches and strawberries), simply rinse them very well.

    You might see or hear about special washes for vegetables and fruits, but by all indications, they are useless. The products won’t clean the food any better than cool, fresh water. Ditto for dishwashing liquid, which can cling to fruits or vegetables and even alter their flavor.

    It’s a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables in two or three rinses of plain water. Fill and empty the sink or a bowl twice or three times to accomplish this.

    It’s also important to wash all fruits and vegetables you will peel, which may strike you as odd. The knife or your fingers can contaminate the flesh inside an orange or banana.

    Other Safety Measures

    When you consider that an apple has been handled by an average of four people before it gets to market, and a head of lettuce by as many as 20, it’s not unreasonable to think about washing everything.

    While you should wash all your produce (even those “pre-washed” lettuces packed in plastic bags and cartons), it’s also sensible to buy it from local vendors, farmer’s markets, and similar venues. It stands to reason that the more distance a piece of fruit or a vegetable has to travel, the more chance it will have been factory farmed, will have passed through many hands, and the more likely it is to be contaminated.

    Plus, when you buy locally, you know where the produce was grown and may even have the opportunity to meet and talk to the farmer. Very often small farmers never use pesticides. (The down side of this is that the food may be more expensive than the supermarket offerings.)

    In the big picture, fruits and vegetables do far more to keep us healthy than they do to make us sick. Nonetheless, it behooves anyone—particularly folks with small children—to be as careful as possible.

    Enjoy your fruits and vegetables—just wash them first!