Is Grocery Store Produce Washed Before It Reaches Shelves?

The produce section at your local grocery store is a vibrant and happy place. Mini sprinklers mist the bunches of bright green broccoli at the same time as recorded music and sounds of birds chirping play. When not getting sprayed with water, the produce is attended to by a clerk making sure the fruits and vegetables are looking their best.

Sitting on the shelves and resting in bins at the grocery store, produce looks fresh and clean, so do you need to wash it after purchase? While some produce is marked washed and ready to eat, others are not. Eating clean produce is important. According to Health, research has shown that pesticides put on plants could negatively affect a person's health, including possibly lowering the chances of being able to conceive a baby.

Reader's Digest reports that some produce is treated with pesticides after it has been harvested in order to slow the ripening process. Another addition to picked fruits could be a layer of wax to make them appear prettier to the consumer, to protect them during travel, and to delay ripening, as well as to prevent mold growth, because the wax contains fungicides, per The Atlantic

To wash or not to wash?

While many fruits and vegetables are washed before being sold at a store, Reader's Digest still recommends washing it yourself before consuming it because it may have picked up dirt and contaminants from the farm to the store.  Reader's Digest also reports that not all fruits and vegetables are cleaned before they leave the grower's facilities for the store. USA Today agrees that washing produce at home is best, because it's not guaranteed that the packing house that handled your produce did it for you.

In addition, USA Today points out that the produce could have also picked up bacteria while at the store from other shoppers handing it. Rinsing fruits and vegetables before eating them can also help to wash away insects and microbes. By cleaning fruit and vegetables at home, you are working to remove any soil, microbes, and pesticides that cling to it. The FDA recommends rubbing produce gently while it is being held under running water, as well as using a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, before eating. 

So, while your Honeycrisp apple may have the most beautiful shiny gleam, it's best to give it one more wash before biting into it so you can enjoy its sweet taste without worry.