To reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables that have edible peels, consider washing them in a baking soda solution. That is the most effective method, at least for apples, suggests a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
USDA-funded researchers doused organic Gala apples with two common pesticides and then washed them with tap water, an EPA-approved commercial bleach produce wash, or a solution of baking soda (one teaspoon of baking soda per two cups of water).
Soaking the apples in the baking soda solution removed all the phosmet (an insecticide) on the peel after 15 minutes and all the thiabendazole (a fungicide commonly used post-harvest) after 12 minutes, while the tap water and commercial produce wash had much less 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 has found that rubbing produce under tap water for at least 30 seconds also reduces residues of many pesticides.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see The Risks of Pesticide Exposure.