Remove Pesticides With Good Old Fashioned Baking Soda!

Posted by Ed 5 mths ago
In a perfect world, I would feed my family with organic fruit and veggies that I had lovingly planted and grown in my back yard. But unfortunately for a number of reasons this doesn't always play out... Firstly, I don't have the space to grow enough to feed my forever hungry family, then despite my best intentions the weeds often get away on me. At least a couple of our family favourites, spinach and kale, happen to grow like weeds, and are keen competitors in our garden!
As a result, a lot of our fruit and veggies come from the local supermarket. I certainly buy organic where I can, but their range often doesn't extend much past a bag of carrots. OK so that's a slight exaggeration, but our local supermarket's organic produce is pretty limited and I end up buying quite a lot of conventional fruit and veggies. As I'm sure you are well aware, much of the conventional produce is covered in less than desirable pesticides. So what's a girl to do?
Luckily, there’s an easy way to remove pesticide residue from our fresh produce... believe it or not, it's good old fashioned baking soda! Whilst it isn't as good as going organic, scientists at the University of Massachusetts showed that this simple pantry staple does an amazingly good job of removing pesticides from fruit and veggies. In fact, it removed 96% of surface pesticides!
Pesticides are used to increase farm productivity. However, chances are that they will, at least to some extent, remain on the produce we eat. Unlike the USA however, where the EWG tests fruit & veggies for pesticides every year, New Zealand tests only sporadically. Therefore, we really can't know for sure what we are getting on our food when we buy conventional produce.
What we do know is that in NZ, more than a staggering 300 different pesticides have been approved for use on our fruit and veggies. And, just to make matters worse, because of their toxicity, some of these approved pesticides, are banned in other countries.
In 2020, Consumer New Zealand released their findings from chemical residue testing carried out on a selection of foods found on our supermarket shelves. It was a real eye-opener. For example, with regards to oats, they found that:
  • Glyphosate (i.e. Roundup) residues were 3x higher than the maximum permitted levels for a couple of popular supermarket products - Harraways Rolled Oats (non-organic) and Pam's Rolled oats.
  • Both brands of organic oats that we have on offer at Happy & Healthy (Chantal and Ceres), were found to be glyphosate free.
They also tested a range of local fruit and veggies, as well as raisins. Once again organics came out tops and were found to be residue-free. On the other hand, amongst the non-organic samples, 16 kinds of pesticides were found, 9 of which have been banned in the EU! Pak n' Save's Kale was a real standout, for all the wrong reasons! This article makes very interesting reading and if you missed it, I encourage you to take a look... Pesticides in Fruit and Vege, Consumer NZ - February 2020.
Study Explores Removing Pesticides
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, demonstrates that baking soda cleans pesticides residue from our produce better than other washing methods. As part of this study, researchers at the University of Massachusetts applied thiabendazole and phosmet to organic apples. They chose thiabendazole because it is known to penetrate apple skin. Phosmet is commonly used in the industry, so it made a logical second choice.
They found that:
  • Soaking the apples in the baking soda solution removed almost all (96%) of the phosmet on the skin and 80% of the thiabendazole after 12-15 minutes.
  • Researchers accounted for the difference between the two pesticides because the thiabendazole tends to be absorbed by the apple up to 80 micrometers deep. Phosmet on the other hand only penetrates about 20 micrometers
  • Tap water and commercial produce wash had much less of an effect. Just two minutes of baking soda treatment resulted in greater pesticide removal than either of these other two methods.
  • Note that this study relates to surface pesticides. Some pesticides are absorbed deeper into the flesh of the produce, where they cannot be washed away.
It really is that simple, no hooks, no catches - all you need to do is soak your produce in water and baking soda (at a concentration of 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 cups of water); Let it sit for at least two minutes, but preferably up to 15 - as the longer you soak, the more chemicals you get rid of. Then rinse in tap water again before eating.
I tend to soak my produce as I'm unpacking it, straight from the supermarket. That way not only is it done, but also the longer pesticides sit on fruits and vegetables, the deeper they’re absorbed, and the harder it is to remove them. Note: This may not be practical for delicate produce, such as berries or mushrooms, because washing them too far ahead of eating them may speed up spoiling.
This news may come as no surprise to many of you, who have been using baking soda for all sorts of things, for years. But it certainly amazed me... is there anything baking soda can't do? And, with it being so simple and so economical, I encourage you to get washing! 

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