Winner: A Baking Soda Wash for Fruits and Vegetables

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To remove pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables with edible peels, consider using a wash made of baking soda. At least for apples, that is the most effective way, findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggest.

As part of a study, USDA-funded researchers doused organic Gala apples with two common pesticides and then washed them with tap water, a commercial bleach produce wash approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or a solution of baking soda (1 teaspoon of baking soda per 2 cups of water).

Soaking the apples in the baking soda solution removed all of the phosmet (an insecticide) on the skin after 15 minutes, and all of the thiabendazole (a fungicide commonly used post-harvest) after 12 minutes, while the tap water and commercial produce wash had much less of an effect. But even two minutes of baking soda treatment resulted in greater pesticide removal than the other two methods.

Some pesticides are absorbed into the fruit, however, where they can’t effectively be washed away. Though the risks of regularly ingesting minuscule amounts of pesticide residues from foods is unclear, many people may wish to minimize exposure, especially when it comes to produce that will be eaten by children.

Keep in mind that earlier research found that rubbing produce under tap water for at least 30 seconds also reduces residues of many pesticides.