Look in children’s lunch boxes across America and you will find baby carrots, but why do they look so different from the carrots in your garden?
The Truth About Baby Carrots
In the process of going from the farm to table, we lose about 46% of fruits and vegetables, says National Geographic.
That fact is, most people do not want to purchase vegetables and fruits that look less aesthetically pleasing. So companies often discard food that appears imperfect or blemished.
What’s more, some supermarkets started selling the imperfect produce at a discounted price. Some farmers even donate the vegetables and fruits that they cannot sell, which is excellent, but we still face the problem of losing good food just because they do not look good.
In the 1980s, supermarkets were only selling “pretty carrots,” and consumers stopped buying foods that were in the wrong shape or color. All the “ugly carrots” were used to feed animals or to make juices. Therefore, farmers started to cut their “ugly carrots” into bite sizes, peeling them and selling them in bags to avoid waste. These became known as “baby-cut carrots” and we often mistake them for “baby carrots.”
The Real Baby Carrots
To be able to buy the real baby carrots, the farmers need to grow carrots until the “baby stage.” These carrots are picked out of the soil before they grow to their full size. These real baby carrots get sold to grocery stores with the greenery still on them.
When farmers first introduced baby-cut carrots to the marketplace, in the 90s, the carrot industry made a complete transformation. In fact, baby-cut carrots are the fastest growing segment of the carrot market today. For example, baby-cut carrots are more popular than potatoes and celery. They have also changed, as these days carrots are often bred to include perfect characteristics such as a more vibrant taste and brighter color (source).
Presumably, Baby-cut carrots make the industry more environmentally friendly by decreasing food waste. However, there is one part of the baby-cut carrot process that proves dangerous to human health and the environment.
Baby-Cut Carrots Are Immersed In Chlorine
Perhaps knowing that baby-cut carrots are immersed in chlorine is not a surprise to you because otherwise how could they look so fresh and last so long. Sometimes, people eat baby-cut carrots way after the recommended “due date” as the carrots still appear in excellent condition for consumption and now you know why they look so good even after their due date.
To make baby-cut carrots, the producers immerse the carrots in a chlorine-water solution before packaging them. Chlorine is used to restrict the risk of food-borne illnesses such as E.coli. Grimmway Farms, which is a producer of baby-cut carrots, revealed that the chlorine solution is within limits set by the EPA and is the same amount of chlorine found in tap water.
However, as you know, the level of chlorine found in your tap water can be extremely dangerous to your health. The U.S. Council Of Environmental Quality openly declared that “cancer risk among people drinking chlorinated water is 93% higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.” So you can see that we cannot blindly trust the EPA to set proper limits of chlorine in our water or in our food.
Chlorine Is A Toxic Pathogen
Chlorine is a chemical that belongs to the same chemical group as fluoride, and they are called pathogens. Chlorine in its natural form is a basic element on Earth and is highly toxic. Even the EPA stated that Americans are absorbing 300-600 times the volume of chlorine that is estimated “safe to ingest.”
Chlorine is different from other sanitation chemicals because it does not break down. Therefore, even if the amount utilized to make baby-cut carrots is within the EPA guidelines, you should not be eating them as you already expose yourself to enough chlorine from other sources such as tap water.
Demystifying Other Myths About “Baby Carrots”
Now we know some truth about baby-cut carrots, they the fact that producers immerse them in chlorine before packaging. Moreover, we see that they are not real baby carrots, they are baby-cut carrots. Another thing to take note of is the white foam that forms outside baby-cut carrots, and it is not related to chlorine.
The truth is the white foam you see outside the baby-cut carrots is an indicator that the carrots have begun to dry out. You can give back the carrots original color by adding more water to them. The same thing does not appear on regular carrots because they have not been peeled, so they do not dry as fast as the baby-cut carrots do. However, If you peel an ordinary carrot, the same thing will happen.
Dr. Aruna Weerasooriya, researcher and Professor of Agricultural Sciences at Prairie View A&M University said that how we process some vegetables diminishes their nutritional value, and this includes carrots. Dr. Weerasooriya describes, “when you look at wild carrots, they have high levels of Thymol, a phytochemical that is essential for the body to control bacteria and ward off viral infections… Now, when you look at some of these new carrot breeds, this phytochemical just isn’t there.”
Dr. Weerasooriya noted that companies care more about extending baby-cut carrots’ shelf life than in human health. That comes as no surprise as large corporations have increasingly focused more on their profits than people. He explains, “research should focus on how to retain some of these nutrients, but instead companies are probably more concerned about a longer shelf life.”
To avoid buying baby-cut carrots with chlorine, purchase organic baby-cut carrots instead. Organic baby-cut carrots are immersed in a non-toxic, citrus solution called Citrox. Citrox is a natural alternative to chlorine and is used to disinfect organic produce and other food and beverage products. Another answer is to buy regular carrots, and at home, you can cut them into smaller pieces.
Sadly, many pre-cut vegetables are immersed in chlorine as well. Your best bet to avoid toxic chemicals is to buy organic vegetables and to cut them at home instead of buying pre-cut vegetables.