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Can washing of produce help get rid of pesticides? Not really. The fruits and vegetables tested by USDA PDP (*) are “prepared emulating practices of average consumer” before testing for pesticides. That is: “(1) apples are washed with stems and cores removed; (2) asparagus and spinach have inedible portions removed and are washed; (3) cantaloupes are cut in half and seed and rinds are removed; […] and (9) tomatoes are washed and stems removed”.
Washing before consuming is highly recommended because helps decrease pesticide residues present on surface of vegetables, but majorities of pollutants are absorbed into plant and can’t be just washed away. Some pesticides are specifically created to stick to surface of crops and they don’t come out by washing. Peeling can help eliminating some of chemicals but not all, and a lot of important substances will be discarded with skin.
So, on one hand we have to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for a healthy diet, and on other hand we have to reduce as much a possible intake of pesticides. What to do if you are unconvinced by claims of chemical companies that certain levels of pesticides are not dangerous?
We have very few options to defend ourselves: (1) Wash all vegetables and fruit very well; (2) Change eating habits in order to consume more of produce with low pollutants; (3) Consume a diet as varied as possible; (4) Buy organic foods.
Anna Maria Volpi is a cooking instructor and personal chef in Los Angeles. Visit Anna Maria’s website http://www.annamariavolpi.com/ for step-by-step illustrated traditional Italian recipes for tiramisu, pasta, pizza, lasagna, risotto, gnocchi and much more, articles and food newsletter.