Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Fruit/Veggie wash

  1. Aug 17, 2008 #1

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I eat fresh fruit such as apples at work. I sometimes wash them in water but I often wonder if they have pesticides on them.

    I know that a good washing in water probably gets 90% of undesirables, but I'm lazy, and tend to wash for only 10 seconds.

    This one I have here is called Nature Clean. Its ingredients are: water, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate (food grade cleanser from palm oil), carboxyl methyl cellulose (celluslose gum), with hazel (natural astringent), citric acid, potassium sorbate.

    Do these fruit/veggie wash products have any basis in fact?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2008 #2

    LowlyPion

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Those ingredients look fairly benign to me. Though I have seen recommendations to wash 30 seconds and using soft brushes to scrub etc. Not sure that if you did that with water you wouldn't get the same results.

    As a bit of irony after not using About.com in months (and there being another thread on the value of About.com today) I came across this interesting alternative - homemade soap - with how a to on - where else? - About.com.

    Castile soap made from olive oil would likely be just as good as these fancy washes at acting as a surfactant to get pesticides off. This link here makes it look considerably easier and safer than say running a meth lab, and maybe about as much work as making Divinity fudge or peanut brittle. Actually it looks like something worth trying - the soap making that is:
    http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/coldprocesssoapmaking/ss/sscpsoap.htm
    Just skip the fragrances and colors, etc.

    Various other home alternatives that I saw included apple cider vinegar as a scrub and rinse in water or a mild solution of chlorox as mild antifungals.
     
  4. Aug 18, 2008 #3

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    This gets at the crux of my question. I've no doubt that the substance could be made easily enough, I'm not fool enough think there's anything special in them. My question is more a matter of 'do soaps remove pesticides & stuff effectively enough to make it worth it?'

    For example, a friend of mine contends that this is only "scratching the surface" of the problem, that pesticides are also in the meat of the fruit. This would render the effectiveness of any type of washing moot.
     
  5. Aug 18, 2008 #4

    LowlyPion

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    This seems to me to be a difficult question to know. Certainly even the washing only claims 97% efficacy. Then when you start to look at the pesticides and the constituent by-products of break-down and the means by which they may have been assimilated by the flesh of the fruit or vegetable either by direct application to and through the skin or by subsequent absorption through water and roots, the opportunities for conversion into benign chemicals seems suggested as I would imagine that complex organics would necessarily be transformed and cell membranes must be good for something, but still ... there is that doubt that some chemicals might do something unwanted.

    The washing though at least from an e.coli sense would likely benefit and there the vinegar or dilute chlorox might be all that's required.
     
  6. Aug 18, 2008 #5
    Sorry, but selling a special fruit cleaner for the direct purpose of removing pesticides is pretty laughable. It's like selling a tinfoil hat to prevent cell phone cancer. If you can't detect a statistical difference in the use/absence of cell phones/pesticides then how can you detect a statistical difference in the use of something that's supposed to keep you safe from them.
    Use dish soap, it's cheaper.
     
  7. Aug 18, 2008 #6

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THREAD BEFORE SHOOTING OFF YOUR RESPONSES. I'LL SAY IT A THIRD TIME:

    I'm NOT asking whether this product can't be more easily duplicated with other household products. I'm asking if washing products DO remove toxins.

    If your answer is "Use dish soap", then that measn YES, washing products DO REMOVE TOXINS.
     
  8. Aug 18, 2008 #7
    The problem as stated above by LowlyPion is you first need to define "Remove toxins"
    Dirt and Bacteria: Most.
    Pesticides on the surface: Most.
    Pesticides absorbed by the fruit: Nope.
    Heavy Metals: Nope
    But again these are vauge terms. There are a lot of pesticides on the market, and a lot of "Toxins" that could potentialy get on/in fruit.
    I'm sorry for agrivating you, but I honestly thought that part of the question was pretty well answered, if it's on the surface washing helps, if not then you are out of luck.

    Also, most produce is washed before it even gets to you. Dirty produce doesn't earn as much as clean produce. But you can get bacteria spread in those washers if they are not properly maintained and disinfected.
     
  9. Aug 18, 2008 #8

    LowlyPion

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I didn't mention that because I think if it is in the soil it may in fact enter the food chain in more elevated rates. But in whatever rate it may enter, I doubt once the soil itself is washed away from the produce, there would be little more that surface washing or even cooking would affect.

    As to heavy metals being used in pesticides ... lead, cadmium ... that surely isn't safe and I have doubt would be in use anywhere, even in underdeveloped countries.

    As to the original point, organochlorines are not uncommon toxins in pesticides and these are the ones that do have recognized safe limits. Since they are water soluble, washing would seem to mitigate their transmission if present, leaving the question about the efficacy of specialized cleansers over and above just washing. In that regard, I'd be skeptical, but if anyone was unconvinced, balancing that concern could be accomplished with wholly natural substitutes to the surfactants listed in the ingredients given.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2008
  10. Aug 18, 2008 #9
    Are you suggesting that we shouldn't be concerned about eating mercury? A lake near where I live is man made and was created to cover up a mercury mine. They say that you shouldn't eat any fish out of it at all. Is it not true that mercury builds up in your system and can cause damage to your health.

    I cannot see what anyone would have to gain by fear mongering people about food. You wash your hands before you eat, should we skip that too?
     
  11. Aug 18, 2008 #10

    LowlyPion

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    This would be correct. Mercury is another element to avoid ingesting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_poisoning
     
  12. Aug 19, 2008 #11

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Certainly, it'll only wash off surface stuff.


    So, IMO, what we have here is:
    • rinsing fruit is probably not a bad idea, though the jury's out on just how much stuff there might be on the surface that you wouldn't want to ingest (then again, surely you'd want to wash anything that's been handled by the public)
    • water's fine, but any type of soap will have a detergent/emulsifier that will work on substances that water does not, such as oils
    • generally, no one soap is better than any other, there's no magic ingredient
    • perhaps the only advantage of food soaps is that they're odorless/tasteless
     
  13. Aug 22, 2008 #12

    paw

    User Avatar

    I'm a chemist and I used to work in a pesticide manufacturing plant for 16 years. We were exposed to billions of times more pesticides than the average consumer would be from eating unwashed fruit. We were all monitored for exposure twice a year and in all the time I worked there not one employee ever showed signs of any exposure.

    Do I worry about pesticides on my fruit? Not. I'd worry more about the sun going nova and I'm not losing any sleep over that.
     
  14. Aug 24, 2008 #13

    GCT

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper


    The product that you mentioned has citric acid which can chelate metal ions this is one extra advantage however everything else seems ordinary.
     
  15. Aug 24, 2008 #14

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'll run a fruit or vegetable under the faucet for a second to get bug poop off, I'm not really afraid of what's on them, doesn't seem to have ever hurt me. The only thing I give a good scrub to are potatoes to make sure the dirt is off if I'm not peeling them.
     
  16. Aug 24, 2008 #15

    LowlyPion

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    In a slightly related story, and not to challenge your assertion or lack of concern in any way, I once had insulation blown into the walls of my house, fireproofed cellulose fill, which had the unfortunate short term effect of displacing a couple of hitherto unknown families of mice. Needless to say I called a pest control "expert" to eradicate the problem.

    The guy showed up with an assistant, because I guess he needed the help. He had a withered dwarfed arm and a club foot and he was very pleasant and all, and did a thorough job, but in talking to him I found out that his was a family business and that his father had been doling out rodent poisons for 40 years before him, but unfortunately he had recently passed from cancer.

    Needless to say when he was telling me the rodent poisons he was putting out were safe for human environments, I was more than a little skeptical.

    When you see statistics about chemical causalities, incidence:million people on chemicals, all I can think is that's all they are is statistics to those families that have apparently been adversely afflicted.
     
  17. Aug 24, 2008 #16

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2015 Award

    Substances that kill rats and mice (very similar physiologically to humans) are likely to be more harmful than substances designed to kill insects (more physiologically dissimilar to humans). Despite both being "dangerous chemicals," the comparison is about as valid as comparing the deadliness of a kitchen knife and an assault rifle (plus, their deadliness probably pales in comparison to the amount of deaths due to accidental inhalation to the deadliest chemical in the world, water). Remember, we're scientists here. Treating all synthetic chemical substances as the same displays profound ignorance of science (example, products advertised as chemical-free, despite not being a vacuum). Of course there are causes for concern and skepticism is always a good thing, but lets not unnecessarily demonize the word "chemical."

    </ranting from a chemist>
     
  18. Aug 24, 2008 #17

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Except that manufacturing plants usually have safety plans in place and require wearing PPE, so you really shouldn't get ANY exposure from the workplace. You probably do get more from your fruit, which is ingested, than from work. Certainly those out in the fields picking the fruits are exposed to them.

    Though, is there enough on the surface of fruits and veggies that would cling after a good rinse with plain water but would come off with one of these special cleaners? Probably not. I'd be more worried about the common cold from other people's dirty hands touching the fruits and veggies while they're in the store, and for the most part, a thorough rinsing with plain water takes care of that.

    Does anything in that wash help remove the wax coating applied to fruits to give them that bright shine and help preserve them?
     
  19. Aug 24, 2008 #18

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    If I'm not mistaken, most fruits and vegetables are washed at the packing plants, I know tomatoes are.

    I mostly rinse mine just to get off any bug stuff and people handling that happened after they left the packing plant.
     
  20. Aug 24, 2008 #19

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Our grocery stores carry produce from local farms. I don't know if those are processed like those that go through packaging plants. I don't assume the packaging plants never miss a fruit or vegetable though. But, really, I'm more worried about actual dirt than anything else when I wash veggies...nothing worse than grit in your food. :yuck:
     
  21. Aug 24, 2008 #20

    LowlyPion

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I'm certainly not suggesting any equivalence in toxicity between poisons that would interrupt bug life and human chemical processes. (In fact I think you do a disservice to the discussion to suggest it.) But I would observe that pesticides do carry toxicity thresholds (organochlorides for instance) and less well studied longer term effects, beyond immediate ingestion concerns. (It wasn't all that long ago that DDT apparently posed no known health risk.)

    My comments were more directed at the unfortunate fact that some chemicals previously considered safe environmentally, are later found to not be safe. Beyond statistics, when these effects manifest in particular affliction, I for one find it particularly pitiful that science and regulation has seemingly failed such people.

    Moreover, looking forward, given what we can see, cases of industrial pollution like Love Canal in the past, and noting the cornucopia of chemicals that circulate, or may yet circulate, as a result of too little information beyond immediate toxicity, I think that's placing too much blind trust in human enterprise that is arguably more driven by profit, than by concerns for environmental effects.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Fruit/Veggie wash
  1. Washing clothes? (Replies: 67)

  2. Washing Fruit (Replies: 8)

  3. Washing pebbles (Replies: 53)

  4. Fruit Flies (Replies: 8)

  5. Kraft Veggie Pasta (Replies: 7)

Loading...