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Why Baby Carrots Are Killing You - Not!
It was back in 1986 that a California farmer named Mike Yurosek got tired of wasting carrots. See, stores are only going to stock good-looking carrots. At farms, twisted misshapen and broken up carrots had to be made into carrot juice, fed to animals or, worst of all, thrown away. Mike thought of a solution.
His solution was to peel the carrots and cut them up into little pieces so that they could be sold as "baby carrots", handy little healthy snacks.
Well, they caught on, sort of took off like wildfire, and now parents pack them in kids' school lunches as a healthy alternative to chips.
But more than twenty years after Mr. Yurosek's brilliant idea caught on, a sinister plot to destroy the good reputation of baby carrots was planted on the Internet.
Deadly Baby Carrot Hoax
In March of 2008, people started receiving a forwarded email that warned them of the dangers of these little veggies. The claim was (is) that the carrots are soaked in chlorine and that you can see the residue of the chlorine on the carrots because, if you notice, there is usually a white film on them; this is proof, according to the email, that we are being poisoned by little carrots.
Further rumors claim that companies grind up the carrots, soak them in chlorine to enhance the color of the vegetables and then shape them nicely to look appealing. Then, it is claimed, we are poisoned by them.
The forwarded email eventually became a viral text message and loads of consumers started to become convinced that baby carrots are dangerous.
Is Chlorine Deadly?
Well, chlorine gas was used in World War One as a weapon, damaging many soldiers' lungs and taking a heavy toll on affected populations. Chlorine is thought to cause breathing problems and some believe it is linked to asthma. It has even been linked to certain forms of cancer.
The FDA classifies chlorine as a pesticide. It's meant to kill bacteria. For this reason, it seems reasonable to assume it could kill good bacteria in your digestive system.
So, I suppose it makes sense that people are concerned about any use of chlorine in things we eat. For that matter, some argue that it is harmful to breathe in the steam in the shower, because our water has chlorine in it.
Then, does this mean baby carrots are deadly?
So Are Baby Carrots Deadly?
Chlorine is commonly used in the manufacture of cut veggies and fruits to kill deadly bacteria, the likes of e coli and salmonella. It is necessary to disinfect vegetables in large-scale food production in this way for reasons of safety and health. Even organic growers like Grimmway use chlorine to wash their baby carrots.
These growers peel, cut and shape the carrots to look appealing and then use a chlorine and water solution on them to kill germs and deadly microbes so they can sell them to stores. After the rinse (not soak) in the chlorine solution, which is only done for about 5 minutes, the carrots are further rinsed with potable water to clean the chlorine off of the carrots. In addition, the amount of chlorine used in that initial rinse is far below what the FDA allows. In fact, the FDA recommends the use of anti-microbial washing of fruits and vegetables to kill deadly microbes.
What about the white film found on baby carrots that is supposedly the residue of poisonous chlorine left over from the rinse? Actually, that white stuff occurs from the carrots drying out, because they are peeled and cut and so don't have a protective skin. It is also caused by the carrots releasing an enzyme due to their structure being damaged from being cut and peeled, which creates a layer of a substance called lignin, which is common in plants.
So, the white layer is a natural occurrence in carrots and has nothing to do with the use of chlorine in the washing of these healthy snacks.
How Baby Carrots Are Made
So, it seems that the rumor that baby carrots can kill you is an urban legend, spread across the Internet through the magic of email and sent to your phone through viral text messaging. All evidence points to a safe practice of cutting and cleaning the carrots to kill bacteria and washing them once more to remove chlorine so that you and your family can have a handy healthy snack.