About Those Baby Carrots...
That’s right, baby carrots! They just might be in your fridge too. And why wouldn’t they? They’re bite-sized finger food, don’t need any peeling or cutting so they save on time, and they satisfy that occasional craving for something cool, crunchy and a little bit sweet.
Here’s an interesting tidbit
Are baby carrots really baby carrots? After all you don’t just pluck these morsels right out of the ground…or do you?
If you want the real thing, well, you just need to know what to look for. “True” baby carrots are very young carrots that have the same shape as the larger, regular ones. They’re just thinner and smaller. They’re usually sold with their green stems still attached to prove that they really are “true” baby carrots. (1) Of course, nowadays there’s a new breed out there that sprouts small-sized carrots just like the large varieties we all know and love.
But what about the little ones, you know, the ones in plastic bags? Sure, they’re carrots all right. They’re just not “baby” carrots. Ever wonder where they came from?
How were these babies birthed?
It was back in the 1980’s when California carrot producer Mike Yurosek felt he was wasting too many carrots because of slight rot or imperfections. The average loss was 400 tonnes daily. (2) Yurosek got creative and found a way to eliminate that waste.
After experimenting with an industrial green bean cutter and potato peeler the creative carrot producer came up with a peeled two-inch carrot with rounded edges. In a nutshell, that’s how the “baby carrot” was born. Actually, the industry calls them “small-cut” carrot.
Back in the day it was the cull, or waste product, that was used. These days it’s usually specific cultivars that are used to produce these mini carrots.
Here’s the dirt on them
I’m still hearing a lot of talk about the chlorine baths these babies soak in. Is it true? Yes. Is it dangerous to our health? Could be but we don’t know for sure. The powers that be haven’t been able to prove it one-way or another…yet.
First things first though, why are these small carrots immersed in this chlorine-water bath? To put it simply, the producers hope it will eliminate food-born pathogens like E. Coli and Salmonella from growing on their product.
So, after being cut and peeled these babies are washed in a chlorine-water solution in the amount of 4 parts per million (ppm), an amount deemed safe by the FDA. The EPA also claims that the chlorine present in the bath water is comparable to the amount found in drinking water. (3)
If it’s approved by the EPA and the FDA it should be safe, right? Maybe. Thing is, believe it or not, the government regulation for chlorine allowed in a swimming pool is less than what’s allowed in public drinking water! The amount varies by region but is generally in the 1-3 ppm range. (4)
A crazy little fact you probably didn’t know
Chlorine dioxide is the disinfectant used in this chlorine-water bath.
It’s found on food, not only baby carrots but also in most cut produce, in swimming pools, and in drinking water.
There are a few suspected health effects of chlorine dioxide ingestion. A study about the potential health hazards of chlorination disinfectant byproducts (DBPs) that was reviewed in the Journal of Hazardous Materials states: “There have been epidemiological evidences of close relationship between its exposure and adverse outcomes particularly the cancers of vital organs in human beings.” (5)
There are other similar studies out there but this one seems to state it quite well.
So the verdict is still out. There is “evidence” but no solid “facts” or “proof.” In other words more research needs to be done in order to determine if the use of chlorine baths is in fact dangerous to our health.
Some food for thought
Most of us have filters attached to our kitchen faucets or use the popular jugs to filter our water.
A question to ask ourselves is why do we use these filters? The answer probably is to eliminate our ingestion of toxins and their byproducts, chlorine being one of them.
If we eliminate it at the tap why are we eating it off of our food?
Hope for healthier disinfecting solutions
It’s not a lost cause though. There are several antimicrobial washing solutions like UV–C radiation, intense light pulses, and noble gases, among others that can be used alone or in combination. Science considers them promising treatments as a replacement to the chlorine baths. (6)
The International Journal of Food Microbiology published an article about the efficacy of plant hydrosols as natural food sanitizers. In other words, the authors of the study looked at plant distillates (extract) and how well they could act as natural sanitizers. (7)
They looked at thyme, black cumin, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf. The most effective sanitizing agent tested in this study was the thyme hydrosol.
Here are just a couple of the concluding comments from the study:
“Hydrosols have potential to cover the demands of industry for natural antimicrobials to be used as a washing solution for domestic fresh produce.”
“The major advantages of plant hydrosols are that they are cheap, safe and readily available.”
The question of the day is
What will you do with this information? Will you still buy and eat those small, nubby carrots found in the plastic bags?
In our home we simply buy the regular carrots. If we want small bite-sized one we peel and cut the larger ones. It only takes a few minutes to do. If we want to have them on hand and not have to peel and cut on demand we do a bunch of them at a time and keep them in a glass jar filled with water to avoid the white stuff on the carrots.
Oh by the way, the white stuff you sometimes see on the baby carrots? It’s not the chlorine coming out of them like popular lore claims. It’s simply the carrot dehydrating, losing moisture. Think of it this way, the skin is there to protect and keep the inside moist. Once it’s removed everything dries up.
My challenge to you
Next time you’re at the store chose regular carrots, take them home, and prepare them the way we do in our home. It might take you 5 minutes max. Let me know how it goes.
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Here’s to your Yummylicious Life!