Why Do Grocery Stores Spray Produce?

For a lot of us, hearing the thunderous sound that would alert customers that the grocery store's misting system was about to spray the produce was a simple wonder to us as kids. It was like a tiny storm happening right inside the produce section, and right before our very eyes. But as we grew older, we might not have even thought twice about the water regularly raining down on the fruits and vegetables in our local store. But there are a few reasons why this is practiced, and two of them might surprise you.

People tend to assume that misted produce is actually fresher, and that isn't totally false. Some produce, as noted by The New York Times, really does need to be sprayed every so often to keep it from wilting or spoiling before it can be sold. But that is far from the only — or even the primary — reason grocery stores use this tactic, according to Taste of Home. Like so many things in life, it's all about making more money and appealing to consumers.

This might be the most deceptive reason

Taste of Home explains that store produce that is glistening with droplets of water are associated with being fresh and clean to customer's eyes. That means sprayed produce may look more tempting, and people may be more likely to pick up more fruits and/or vegetables than they might have planned to. But, that still isn't the primary reason for misting so much of the produce, even on those that don't need to be sprayed with water to keep from spoiling.

According to Southern Living, misting produce causes its weight to increase. So, if you're buying produce by the pound, then that extra water means you'll be paying more for something you shouldn't be. Most produce absorbs the mist and essentially bloats out, making it heavier due to water weight.

As cited by Southern Living, Produce Business in 2016 shared numbers from a study that found that broccoli (already one of the vegetables with the highest water content, per My Food Data) that was not misted weighed about 4% less over a 16-hour period. By contrast, broccoli that was misted not only maintained its weight, but actually gained an additional 5% — with most grocery customers none the wiser.