Baking Soda for Washing Fruits and Vegetables

A friend asked, “Have you tried washing your vegetables with baking soda? A friend told me it is good to remove pesticide.”

Baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3)

“No, I haven’t,” I answered. “Is this yet another health tip spreading on social media?” So, I told the friend that I will check it out. I did a search on PubMed, the largest online database for biomedical science literature maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Indeed, there is a recent research paper published in 2017 on this topic [1]. A group of researchers from the University of Massachusetts did an experiment to compare the effectiveness of removing surface and internalised pesticide residue on apples using three different washing agents. The three are (1) bleach, (2) baking soda, and (3) water.

Do you know that your apple is bleached ?

Are you shocked to learn that bleach can be used to clean apple? In fact, Clorox Germicidal bleach, the same brand of bleach generally used for household washing and cleaning, is approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a commercial sanitizer washing solution for fruits and vegetables (U.S. EPA regulation number 5813-100) [2]. Washing in bleach is the standard postharvest procedures of a lot of commercial farms in the U.S., according to the researchers.

This study found that baking soda is more effective than both Clorox bleach and tap water in removing pesticide residues from the surface of apples. However, to achieve the effect, one will need to soak an apple in 10 mg/mL of baking soda, for 12 to 15 minutes, before rinsing the apple with running water.

Rinsing apples under running water may not get rid of all the pesticide residues.

However, the researchers also found that some pesticides could penetrate deep into the apple. Although baking soda can help to remove the surface pesticides by degrading the chemical, it is less effective in eliminating residuals inside the apple peels. Hence, if you want to be entirely sure, peel your apple. Better still, eat organic.

Peeling is even more effective than soaking in baking soda for getting rid of pesticide residues, but nutrients are lost as well.

In any case, baking soda does help to remove pesticides from fruits and vegetables. Make sure you keep some handy in your kitchen!  

References

[1]        T. Yang, J. Doherty, B. Zhao, A.J. Kinchla, J.M. Clark, L. He, Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples, J. Agric. Food Chem. 65 (2017) 9744–9752. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03118.

[2]        EPA Reg. No. 5813-100 PUMA, (n.d.). https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/ppls/005813-00100-20161215.pdf.

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