A WhatsApp message claims that washing fruits and vegetables with a baking soda solution can remove pesticides and chemicals from their skins.
True or False?
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that pesticide residues were most effectively removed by rinsing apples with baking soda and water for 12-15 minutes, when compared to either tap water or Clorox bleach.
The overall effectiveness of the method to remove all pesticide residues diminished as pesticides penetrated deeper into the fruit. In practical application, washing apples with NaHCO3 (baking soda) solution can reduce pesticides mostly from the surface. Peeling is more effective to remove the penetrated pesticides; however, bioactive compounds in the peels will become lost too.
According to a Reuters report, lead author Dr Lili He from the University of Massachusetts, said that how well it works “depends on the structure of the fruits and vegetables, but it’s a general method”.
What Experts Say
FIT spoke with Dr Ashwini Setya, a Gastroenterologist and Programme Director in Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital, who said,
In certain kinds of food items, it is definitely helpful. Vinegar with water may also be useful.Dr Ashwini Setya
Ms Rupali Datta, a clinical nutritionist, also agreed.
Yes, it is true. After washing fruits and vegetables with water, you could dip them in a baking soda solution. Another way is using a diluted solution of vinegar in water.Rupali Datta
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in its guidelines on storing and purchasing food, has recommended the following:
- When preparing any fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Throw away any produce that looks rotten.
- Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating, including produce grown at home or bought from a grocery store or farmers’ market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended.
- Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, it is still important to wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce.
- Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
- After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.
Similarly, the guidelines by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), advise washing fruits and vegetables with clean water, along with maintaining basic sanitisation and hygiene.
Therefore, while neither of the guidelines mention baking soda, the available evidence and consultation with experts shows that baking soda with water could be a viable option, and it is definitely not harmful.
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