Should We Wash Produce?

Many of us buy organic produce to avoid ingesting pesticide* residues. If our produce is organic, do we still need to wash it? And what if we can’t afford to buy organic? How can we best remove pesticide residues from fruits & veggies?

  • The health benefits gained from eating fruits & veggies far outweigh the risks from pesticide residue ingestion.

  • Fetuses, babies, and young children are most sensitive to the effects of pesticides.

  • Both imported and domestic fruits & veggies have comparable amounts of pesticide residues.

  • Organic produce may still contains pesticide residues, although amounts are typically dramatically lower than those on conventional produce.

  • If you can't afford to buy everything organic, use EWG's Dirty Dozen list to help you choose which produce (less pesticide-contaminated) to purchase conventional and which produce (more heavily contaminated) to purchase organic. Look for the "Full List" in the app. The free app is available for iPhones and Androids.

  • Rinsing (while rubbing) produce with just water removes significant amounts of many (but not all) pesticides.

  • Using a 10% salt solution** to clean produce is better at removing pesticides than store-bought fruit & veggie washes or vinegar. However, even this solution does not remove all pesticides.

  • Fruits and veggies may also contain bacteria and viruses (as well as chemicals) from being handled by store personnel and other shoppers. The most important reason to wash produce is to decrease the risk of foodborne illness.

Bottom line: Always wash fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventional. Even “triple-washed” lettuce/leafy greens mixtures should be washed. It's an easy way to greatly reduce the pesticide levels we ingest AND to keep food-borne illness at bay. In my humble opinion, it's worth investing in a salad spinner, which makes washing greens SO much easier.

And also consider this: dangerous chemicals in animal foods are mostly stored in fat and can’t be removed at all. In fact, many become more toxic when the food is cooked.

*In this article, “pesticides” includes herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.

** Mix one part salt with nine parts water. Rinse produce well to remove salt.

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