You have a supermarket apple in your hand. You could rub it against your shirt or rinse it under water, or you could mix up a 1 percent baking soda/water solution and use that instead. According to a new study, the baking soda solution is your best bet for reducing pesticides.
A team from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst led the research, which compared the effectiveness of plain tap water, a commercial bleach solution and a baking soda/water mix in removing pesticides from apples.
The scientists started with organic Gala apples and applied the fungicide thiabendazole and the insecticide phosmet before testing the different washing liquids.
"The baking soda solution was the most effective at reducing pesticide," a release on the study notes. "After 12 and 15 minutes, 80 percent of the thiabendazole was removed, and 96 percent of the phosmet was removed, respectively."
The researchers say the industry-standard approach of washing fruit in a bleach solution for two minutes after harvest is not an effective way to completely remove pesticides. They also found the fungicide thiabendazole penetrated into the apple peel much more than the insecticide. Apple lovers would need to remove the peel to also get rid of the pesticide that wasn't washed off with the baking soda solution.
The researchers published the findings this week in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Will you start washing your non-organic apples in a baking soda solution for 15 minutes before you eat them? The US Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides in foods, says, "The presence of a detectable pesticide residue does not mean the residue is at an unsafe level."
Your willingness to wash with baking soda and water may come down to your personal level of concern about pesticides, but the study's conclusions could also lead to more effective fruit-cleaning practices on the commercial level.