Can Peeling Fruits and Vegetables Reduce the Risks From Pesticides?

Published: July 11, 2015 08:00 AM

Q. In your report "Pesticides in Produce: Eat the Peach not the Pesticide," you say that pesticide residue is measured “after produce has been rinsed in cold running water and/or inedible peels and rinds are removed.” What about fruits and vegetables that can be peeled but often aren’t, such as apples, carrots, and peaches? Will peeling them lower the pesticide risk?—Carol George, Chapel Hill, NC

A. Peeling foods with edible skins will probably remove additional pesticide residue, but not all. (Some pesticides are systemic, meaning they’re absorbed through the plant’s root system into the flesh and can’t be washed off.) We don’t recommend peeling the skin because it contains antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. Instead, wash produce under running water, gently rubbing items with soft skins. For harder produce, use a vegetable brush to remove dirt and residue.

For more check our special report on pesticides in produce and watch our video below on when to buy organic. Also explore our Food Safety & Sustainability Guide for a wide range of information on food safety and health issues.

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Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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