A visit to the grocery store often includes a stop at the fresh produce section where fruits and vegetables are displayed and continuously misted with water. While the spraying serves a purpose, it can sometimes be irritating for consumers who attempt to make their selections while avoiding the automatic sprays and end up with soaked goods in their basket. There are sound reasons for misting fresh produce.
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Fresh foods must be displayed in an appetizing manner to encourage rapid sales since their shelf life is limited. Produce that seems dried out or "old" looking will likely be rejected by most consumers, so misters keep food looking plump and moist. Most commercial grocers have misters set to automatically spray produce periodically, typically for just a few seconds. Misting water over produce serves to help to "re-crisp" certain leafy green vegetables such as lettuce.
Misting or spraying fresh produce can help preserve the basic cleanliness of the produce, assuming the water used is free of contaminants. Grocers are supposed to ensure the water used complies with retail and food service handling guidelines and that the water itself does not contribute to contamination. The same health and safety principles apply to ice that is packed around produce displays. While spraying produce keeps vegetables looking clean, however, consumers should be aware that others have handled the produce in the store and that it still will need to be washed thoroughly.
Since spraying fresh produce leaves the items wet, there is an increased potential for mould and other contaminants to occur. This is especially true when produce is left too wet for a long time or when produce is bruised or damaged. Consumers should be particular in choosing fresh produce that not only looks good on the outside but has the desired consistency, shape and smell.
Spraying fresh produce does not contribute to enhanced or reduced nutritional value. The benefits are simply to make the produce more appealing and cleaner for consumers. Consumers should be wary of any sprays used that contain anything but water.
Consumers should be wary of buying fresh produce that claims it is "pre-washed" and "ready-to-eat." While it is true the produce--often leafy-style vegetables or fruit or vegetable trays--has been commercially washed, buyers are advised to rewash food items before serving. Food-borne illnesses such as salmonella can often be killed through careful washing of food before being served.
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