Why You Should Steer Clear Of Misted Produce At The Grocery Store

In the produce section of your local grocery store, those misters can catch you right as you reach in for that perfect head of broccoli for dinner. Your new silk blouse gets water stained, and now you're hurried to change before that dinner date you've been planning all week. You're no kid looking for a summer romp through dad's lawn sprinklers. You're there for the freshest brassica money can buy, for crying out loud! We feel you, and so do a great number of others around the world. While 80% of U.S. grocers use misters, only about 1% of other global retailers see their benefits, according to US Water Systems.

So, why do American grocery stores use these simulated rain showers? Just as the colorful cereal boxes boasting fun cartoon characters are often shelved at a kid's eye level, retailers are banking on you finding the dewy, fresh produce most appealing, explains US Water Systems. The company also reasons the reduction of produce shrinkage, thereby keeping produce as fresh as the moment it was picked — up to four times its sell-by date than if it were sitting in its original bushel baskets. Even that head of broccoli you were picking out stands to lose up to 4% of its weight over 16 hours left unmisted, according to Produce Business. But is "weight loss" the only reason?

The downside of misted produce

Fresh lettuce, for example, will wilt pretty quickly if you don't care for them with proper storage, according to The Grocery Store Guy. He explains that misters help plump up those greens. But the downside? The spread of bacteria if the misters aren't appropriately cleaned, AARP notes. The water distribution lines whereby misters dispense water consist of hundreds of feet of plastic tubing running through the store, according to Total Water. The company explains this as a "dead leg" system. During off-hours, the water just sits in the tubing while bacteria has its own little happy hour — coupled with the fact that these lines are rarely disinfected. You can contract serious lung infections from germs like legionella potentially infesting the water in those pipes, per the CDC. That's why companies like Total Water help grocers understand proper line testing procedures.

Far less serious of an issue, but AARP urges you to consider all the same: Misting adds weight to your water-saturated produce. "Misting does nothing to help produce that's already picked," Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert told AARP. But, when it comes to the salad course, there are few things worse than tossing up a wilted mess of greens for that date you've been planning. Well, maybe a mister-induced case of pneumonia? It's a buyer-beware situation. Either do your due diligence on your grocer's cleaning practices or skip the misted lettuce opting for the boxed kind.