ABOUT WASHING FOOD
Q: Does washing fresh produce eliminate pesticide residues from food?
Washing fresh produce before eating is a healthful habit.
You can reduce and often eliminate residues if they are present on fresh fruits and vegetables by following these simple tips:
Wash produce with large amounts of cold or warm tap water, and scrub with a brush when appropriate; do not use soap.
Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage.
Trim the fat from meat, and fat and skin from poultry and fish. Residues of some pesticides concentrate in animal fat.
Supermarkets, as a rule, do not wash produce before putting it out, but many stores mist it while its on display. Misting keeps the produce from drying, but surface residues drain off also, in much the same way as from a light wash under the kitchen faucet.
A 1990 report in the EPA Journal by three chemists from the agency, Joel Garbus, Susan Hummel, and Stephanie Willet, summarized four studies of fresh tomatoes treated with a fungicide, which were tested a harvest, at the packing house, and at point of sale to the consumer. The studies showed that more than 99 percent of the residues were washed off at the packing house by the food processor.
A 1989 study reported by Edgar Elkins in the Journal of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists showed the effects of peeling, blanching and processing on a number of fruits and vegetables. For example, in the case of benomyl, 83 percent of the residues found on fresh apples were removed during processing into applesauce, 98 percent of residues from oranges processed to juice were removed, and 86 percent of residues from fresh tomatoes processed to juice were removed. Another study in 1991 by Gary Eilrich, reported in an American Chemical Society Symposium, showed similar results.