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Many people wash their fruits because they say that supermarkets put a chemical spray on them to keep them nice for a long time without rotting. (They are concerned that eating food with that spray is unhealthy for our body.)

Is this true?

  • Are you referring to 1-Methylcyclopropene? – femtoRgon May 20 '16 at 0:05
  • @femtoRgon Maybe... – Pichi Wuana May 20 '16 at 0:28
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    Many people wash their fruits because they say supermarkets put a chemical spray on them to keep them nice... I have never heard anyone say that. Can you backup your claim with references? This site is for debugging notable claims, not for hearsay. – user22865 May 20 '16 at 6:15
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    Surprisingly I have heard this. But I rinse my fruit because it's just dirty not to. Have you ever picked up a few Apples then put them back? – Insane May 20 '16 at 10:04
  • I'm not sure what the question is. Are you asking if fruits are sprayed with preservatives? Are you asking if they're sprayed specifically by supermarkets? Are you asking if the spray is harmful to one's health? – Flimzy May 21 '16 at 11:17
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Your question asks about "supermarkets", but I have interpreted that as synecdoche - that you really mean to ask about the whole fruit supply chain, and not just the retailers at the end of it.

Yes, the agricultural industry uses sprayed chemicals to prolong the shelf-life of food.

I list two examples below - but there may be many more.

I haven't listed pesticides that may still be on the fruit, on the grounds that is generally to increase yield, not extend shelf-life.

Wax

Apples, cucumbers, rutabagas, lemons and turnips are just some examples of fruits and vegetables that are sometimes covered in food-grade waxes such as Shellac or Carnouba wax

Both of these waxes are “food-grade waxes” and have been used on food for decades. The FDA has labeled both of these waxes safe for human consumption. Both of these natural waxes are complex mixtures and contain some of the same components found in the wax of an apple.

1-MCP

Commercial products such as RipeLock and SmartFresh contain 1-Methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) which prevents ethylene from acting as a hormone to promote ripening, thus extending the shelf-life.

Wash Fruit Anyway

The FDA recommend washing fruit. We have a related question about the best way to do this: Do fruit/vegetable washes effectively remove pesticides?

The reason given is to remove dirt, but especially microbes. Even if you doubt the existence of sprayed chemicals, or are confident that the FDA has correctly assessed that trace amounts are not a danger, you should wash your fruits and vegetables anyway.

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    I've personally have never heard about supermarkets doing this though it is common knowledge that farmers do this. I wonder why the blame shifted to supermarkets? – slebetman May 20 '16 at 9:10
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    rutawhat? - its called a swede! – Jamiec May 20 '16 at 9:15
  • @Jamiec: I agree, but my reference called a rutabutabunga, or whatever, and I didn't want to have to provide another reference to translate that to English. – Oddthinking May 20 '16 at 11:07
  • @slebetman: I imagine, without evidence, it is derived from dismissing the fruit found in supermarkets (that are generally from big supply chains) from the fruit found in farmer's markets which (presumably) are less likely to have been treated this way. – Oddthinking May 20 '16 at 11:09
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    I note, without taking sides, there are arguments that these treatments improve health by making fruits and vegetables cheaper and more widely available. – Oddthinking May 20 '16 at 11:10

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