Stop black balling baby carrots

Michigan Musings

Find a different band wagon and stop spreading cancer-causing rumors

Published on: February 5, 2013

I see it more and more these days, people seem to enjoy hitching a ride on the wave of negativity. When something sounds a foul or even the least bit suspicious, whether it be true or not, people are more than willing to join in the parade of crusaders to spread the news of some kind of wrong.

The latest Facebook fallacy I recently came across was a smear tactic to undermine one of my ranch-dipping partners – baby carrots. How dare they bash bata carotene goodness. It’s one thing to curse fat-laden, sweetened, shaped, puffed, greased and processed crap food, but to be loathe baby carrots is reprehensible.

The Facebook post, which I understand started circulating a few years ago but just now made it to my attention, explains how baby carrots are made from larger crooked or deformed carrots. It goes on to say, “once the carrots are cut and shaped into cocktail carrots they are dipped in a solution of water and chlorine in order to preserve them (this is the same chlorine used in your pool) since they do not have their skin or natural protective covering, they give them a higher dose of chlorine. You will notice that once you keep these carrots in your refrigerator for a few days, a white covering will form on the carrots, this is the chlorine which resurfaces.”

It further urges people who care about their family and friends to pass this knowledge on because, “Chlorine is a very well known carcinogen.”

It was a bit disturbing for me to see two of my friends, whom I consider to be intelligent, quickly comment about how awful and shocking this information was and how they were going to stop purchasing baby carrots. Really?  Maybe what made it believable was the FB post said the information came from a farmer.

Truth is, yes, baby carrots were the brainchild of a California grower who was tired of losing half his carrot crop because they were not cosmetically marketable. He peeled them down and used a green bean slicer to produce the first crop of what later would be a mainstay of the vegetable tray. One problem was once the carrot had been whittled down, the core was left and it wasn’t as appetizing.

Most baby carrots now are being grown for that purpose and through genetics, a carrot has been bred to have a much smaller and brighter orange core. Baby carrots in the supermarket these days are either immature carrots bred to be small and harvested young, or they are baby-cut carrots bred to be long and thin, which are then cut into smaller pieces at the processor.

Ok, on to the real troubling nature of this attack. What is this white stuff? Does it really contain a carcinogen that may cause cancer?  I have witnessed more than one bag of baby carrots turning a little white in my fridge. I also noticed it was only after an extended period. Therefore, in my little mind, I deduced that maybe they were drying out. I’ve cured this problem by soaking them in cold water. But, now I’m being told I am really being poisoned.

With just a little fact checking, the source of the white film is, in fact, caused by drying of the damaged (peeled) tissue as the carrots are exposed to air. They even have a name for it – white blush. If you’re still in doubt, try peeling a whole carrot and leaving it in the fridge. It will develop a white film as well. The good news, it is perfectly fine to rejuvenate your white-blushed carrots with a cold bath because it does not affect the nutritional value or its taste.

Part of the FB post is correct in that carrots are exposed to chlorine, but not at high concentrations. Like other ready-to-eat fresh vegetables, baby carrots are rinsed or sprayed with diluted chlorine to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination, and then thoroughly washed and bagged. This process is approved by the FDA, with strict rules on the concentration of chlorine and how long the carrots can be exposed.

In some public water systems, you’d find the same level of chlorine in tap water. Chlorination is a well-known and well-tested way to disinfect food products by killing any potential bacteria. And, because as a society we have disassociated ourselves with any responsibility for food safety – nobody wants to wash anything – the burden to ensure no one gets sick falls on food processors and farmers.

Baby carrots have been bred to be sweeter, more tender and a brighter orange. They’re a great, easy treat that’s packed with good stuff like Vitamin A and C, fiber and beta carotene. Although I will couch my praises just a bit, if you really love the taste of carrots, you won’t find the true carrot taste in baby carrots. For me, that makes it less desirable to cook with them. And, because most of that wholesome beta carotene is found in the skin and outer portions of the carrot, it’s estimated that up to 30% is lost in processing. However, eating carrots, baby or not, is still good for you and much better than some alternatives.

I quickly commented on the Face Book post and squashed the notion that baby carrots are laden with chlorine and apt to cause cancer. I set the record straight and my friend deleted it… at least one stream of non-sense shut down. Bugs Bunny would be proud and I certainly have no intention of depriving my celery and cauliflower of the carrots’ company on my vegetable tray.

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  1. Cat of says:

    It's true, chlorine is used to treat public water supplies. It is also true that it is a known carcinogen. FDA approval doesn't equal, "This is safe". The FDA approves a lot of things that are not safe. I will continue to get my carrots whole from local organic farmers, and skip the cosmetic, chlorine-laden, FDA approved "baby" carrots.

  2. Kurt says:

    Jennifer, If you want a really tasty, nutritious carrot, grow your own or buy a locally grown one that is much fresher than one grown thousands of miles away. Perhaps those baby carrots are better than something like a processed "food" with 12 ingredients. But they are not the same as an unadulterated vegetable. I would rather buy an "ugly" raw carrot and eat that, rather than something that was processed with chlorine and left exposed to the air to oxidize. We need to get over the notion that everything we have or eat needs to be cosmetically perfect.