An online graphic and associated narrative promotes the dangers of eating baby carrots. Is this true or fake? Today we take a closer look at this rumor.
First, let’s take a look at one variant of the rumored claim:
DANGER TO YOUR FAMILY!!
From the Department of Life Education:
The following is information from a farmer who grows and packages carrots for IGA, METRO, LOBLAWS, etc.
The small cocktail (baby) carrots you buy in small plastic bags are made using the larger crooked or deformed carrots which are put through a machine which cuts and shapes them into cocktail carrots – most people probably know this already.
What you may not know and should know is the following:
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. At what cost do we put our health at risk to have esthetically pleasing vegetables?
Chlorine is a very well-known carcinogen, which causes Cancer. I thought this was worth passing on. Pass it on to as many people as possible in hopes of informing them where these carrots come from and how they are processed.
I used to buy those baby carrots for vegetable dips. I know that I will never buy them again!!!!
Chlorination of Bagged Vegetables
While it is true that baby carrots are treated with a diluted solution of chlorinated water in order to neutralize bacteria and prevent food poisoning, there is nothing special about the treatment of baby carrots as opposed to other vegetables. In fact, almost all ready-to-eat vegetables, along with bagged lettuce, are treated in this manner. It is very similar to the chlorination process that treats tap water. The process of rinsing packaged vegetables in a watered down chlorine wash is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Opponents can point to no studies which proves this process leads to cancer or any other illness.
In early January of 2014, Fox News published an article addressing the unfounded internet rumors about baby carrots. The feature contains an interview with nutritionist and founder of Honest Mom Nutrition, Ashley Bade. She is quoted as saying, “The chlorine-water solution is a needed step in the process to limit the risk of food-borne illnesses such as E. coli”.
Inside Edition presented a similar article focusing on the rumor in May of 2013. Vani Hari, of the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan and foodbabe.com, also explains the premise for this method: “The reason they do it is because they want to have it for safety. If they have any food-born illness like E. coli or salmonella growing in a bag like this, and someone eats it, that’s a real concern”.
The rumor mentions that the “white covering” on older carrots is the chlorine resurfacing. This is absolutely false. The white blush that appears on carrots is merely a process of damaged tissue (peeled, in this case) drying out. This process occurs naturally on any carrots, even those grown organically.
In the Question & Answer library of Dr. Andrew Weil’s website, he succinctly discusses this aspect of internet gossip: “The film is a result of the dehydration of the cut carrots – you would see the same thing if you cut a regular carrot and stored it in the refrigerator.”
It should be noted that not all baby carrots are the same. There are in fact true baby carrots, which are carrots harvested before reaching maturity. There are also other smaller varieties of carrots available. The rumor above, however, discusses the manufactured baby carrots. Originally baby carrots were created from misshapen carrots that were not visually pleasing enough to sell in supermarkets, and are whittled down into the uniform “baby carrots” we are accustomed to seeing today. Most baby carrots today, however, are specially bred to be small, coreless, and have a sweeter flavor than regular carrots.
According to a 2014 Fox News report, baby carrots have been the fastest rising segment within the carrot industry for the past 25 years.
The Google Trends chart below show how searches for chlorine and baby carrots has progressed since 2006. As you can see, there have been a number of surges in popularity on the search term, including significant peaks in 2008 and 2013.
Baby carrots are safe to eat and are not dangerous. While it is true that all bagged vegetables are cleaned in a dilute chlorine solution, this safety procedure has been approved by the EPA & FDA, and there is no evidence that it causes cancer. The white film seen on older refrigerated carrots is due to dehydration and not residual chlorine. The internet is full of scare tactics such as this. Before sharing such a post, take time to research the rumored information.
Updated February 11, 2016
Originally published December 2012