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Your Mother Was Right -- and Wrong -- About Washing Fruits and Vegetables

washing produce, strawberriesWashing fruits and vegetables does reduce the risk of food poisoning. However, washing alone may not be enough.

Studies show that some disease-causing microbes can evade even chemical sanitizers. These bacteria can make their way inside the leaves of lettuce, spinach and other vegetables and fruit, where surface treatments cannot reach them. Microbes can also organize themselves into tightly knit packs called biofilms to protect themselves from harm.

Biofilms can harbor multiple versions of infectious, disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli.

Researchers suggested that irradiation, a food treatment that exposes food to a source of electron beams, could effectively kill internalized pathogens that are beyond the reach of conventional chemical sanitizers.

Irradiation disrupts the genetic material of living cells, inactivating parasites and destroying pathogens and insects in food.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Most of you probably wash your produce in the same way: by swishing it around in some water. Quite frankly, if that is the only thing you are doing, let me save you some time and suggest that you stop doing this as it is virtually ineffective.

What Works and What I Recommend

In the last few months I learned of the most amazing system to solve the food infections problem SAFELY. It does it by soaking the food in water saturated with ozone. The ozone is a very potent oxidizer and it will not only selectively kill all the microbes on your produce BUT, and more importantly for most of us, it will break down all the pesticides that are on the outside of the vegetables. That is the primary reason I use it.

Ozone, unlike radiation or chemicals, will not damage the vitality of the produce you are going to consume. This is FAR safer than soaking your produce in bleach, which while it will work, is clearly toxic to you.

Ozone can be toxic if you breathe it in large quantities, but when it is dissolved in water and acting on the vegetables, it is completely harmless.

The name of the product is the Lotus Sanitizing System. You can pick up this handy, device at Amazon for a little over $100.

If you own a large commercial food operation I would suggest contacting the company directly, as they have larger units that are now successfully used in many restaurants.

The FDA is Pushing Dangerous and Damaging Ways to Sanitize Foods

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been considering irradiation since 1999. What exactly is irradiation?

Irradiated foods are exposed to a radiant energy source such as gamma rays or electron beams, which create positive and negative charges. This process disrupts the genetic material of living cells, which kills pathogens, insects and just about anything. The process also extends the shelf-life of foods, as the FDA boasts that “irradiated strawberries stay unspoiled up to three weeks, versus three to five days for untreated berries.”

But at what expense?

Irradiation Also Destroys Nutrients

It says so right on the FDA’s Web site:

“The process [irradiation] may cause a small loss of nutrients but no more so than with other processing methods such as cooking, canning, or heat pasteurization.”

Well, as most of you reading this are probably all-too-aware of, the reason why I, and many other nutrition-minded experts, recommend eating a good portion of your food RAW is because of this very reason.

The moment you cook, heat, pasteurize or irradiate most food you lose a major element of its vitality. The energetic element of food -- such as biophoton nutrition -- is largely undervalued in the United States, and the only way to get it is from raw foods.

Meanwhile, when foods are cooked or heated:
  • Nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are depleted, destroyed, and altered.
  • The biochemical structure and nutrient makeup of the food is altered from its original state. Molecules in the food are deranged, degraded, and broken down.
  • The interrelationship of nutrients is altered from its natural synergistic makeup.
  • All of the digestive-friendly enzymes present in raw foods are destroyed.
So imagine what would happen if ALL food, including your fresh produce, was irradiated before it reached your hands. These once lively and health-giving foods would be, literally, dead. And they would not provide the health benefits that raw, natural foods are known for.

Well, There Was That Spinach Scare

You remember, back in 2006, during which all spinach was pulled from store shelves.

Well, the researchers that are behind the above study are using that as a springboard to suggest that irradiation is necessary for fruits and vegetables.

"The spinach outbreak in the fall of 2006, in particular, raised questions about how these organisms survived the various treatments that are applied -- the rinses and the washes and things,” the study’s lead researcher, Brendan A. Niemira, told the Washington Post.

A similar thing happened after a couple of salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 were traced back to raw almonds. The USDA then announced that they would require all raw almonds to be pasteurized. Now, if you want to buy truly raw almonds, you have to get them from a grower overseas.

So if the idea of irradiating fresh produce sounds like a long-shot, it may not be so far off. The USDA is applying its flawed logic once again, and suggesting that since it is possible to become sick from a raw food, you had best kill everything on it (good or bad) before you eat it.

Your Body Can Handle Some Microbes

Very few things in this world are meant to be sterile. Your body is certainly not, and neither is the food you eat. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s supposed to be that way.

In most cases, if your immune system is healthy your body will be more than able to fight off an occasional bad bug in your food. And in the cases when it can’t, the resulting food poisoning is typically a self-limiting illness (particularly if you treat it with high doses of a high-quality probiotic).

Food that is raised in healthy conditions is also less likely to harbor illness-causing microbes, but instead of focusing on getting food producers to clean up their acts, the USDA and the FDA are focusing on how to kill healthy food supplies.

So what can you do?

You Can Avoid Irradiated Foods

For now, food that is irradiated must be labeled as such (except for spices, which are usually irradiated and not labeled). This may not be the case for long, however, as the FDA is considering allowing some irradiated foods to simply be labeled as pasteurized.

For now, though, keep a look out for foods labeled as "treated with radiation," "treated by irradiation,” or that contain the international symbol for irradiation, the radura:
radura, irradiation symbol

Remember that what’s needed to keep your food supply safe is not a hefty dose of irradiation. What are needed are healthy animals and non-toxic growing practices. So if you want to find food that is safe for you and your family, avoid the symbol above like the plague, and buy your food from a local farmer near you who still takes pride in raising food the healthy “old-fashioned” way -- no irradiation required.

+ Sources and References