Fresh Produce Spraying at Health Food Stores (consumer alert)


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The shocking practice of chemical spraying of fresh produce including organics at a mega healthfood store chain. The toxic chemical bottle is conveniently tucked away from prying consumer eyes!

Have you ever seen fresh produce at healthfood stores being misted or sprayed while you were shopping?

If you’re like me, you may have assumed it was just water to keep the produce moist to preserve freshness.

As it turns out, this assumption seems to be very, very wrong!

An alert consumer recently posted a set of photos to social media that show a very toxic product being used to spray produce at Sprouts Farmers Market stores.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Sprouts is a large healthfood store chain headquartered in Arizona. The company has 35,000 employees and operates nearly 400 stores across 23 states.

Naturally, I was quite shocked by these photos and decided to investigate the situation for myself. I have a Sprouts within a few miles of my home.

I normally do not shop there, but I stopped in anyway to take a look to either confirm or disprove what the social media post was claiming.

What I found 100% confirms what I saw on social media. 🤯

On the bright side, it provided yet another reason why buying produce from independently owned and operated healthfood stores, local farms, and farmers markets is worth every second of inconvenience and slightly more additional cost!

Toxic Antimicrobial on Your Produce

What exactly is the spray bottle hidden above the organic produce at the Sprouts store?

It’s called Sterilox. Here’s a closeup picture I took which matches the viral social media post.

What exactly is in this stuff?

In a nutshell, Sterilox is a disinfectant approved by the FDA in 2007 for use as a food-safe sanitizer to be used when re-hydrating or rinsing fresh produce, including leafy green vegetables. (1)

The Sterilox System uses salt, water, and electricity to generate a food-safe sanitizer on site and on demand and is currently used in thousands of U.S. retail supermarkets, the company said. (2)

While only salt, water, and electricity may have been used in 2007, it appears that Sterilox is quite a bit different now!

Chemstar, the company that manufactures Sterilox has on their website a bottle of the stuff with organic produce in the background. (3)

At the Sprouts where I took the photograph, the Sterilox was right above the organic produce section.

And yes, this stuff is allowed to be sprayed on organics! (4)

Here’s the safety data sheet on Sterilox Produce Maxx. (5)

Doesn’t look very safe or “organic”, does it?

Hypochlorous acid and 6000 ppm of Free Available Chlorine (FAC)?

For comparison, only 4 ppm chlorine is considered safe in drinking water, and it isn’t even safe to drink that! (6)

Consider that this antimicrobial being sprayed on your fresh produce contains 1500X that amount of chlorine. Granted, the product is diluted with tap water before spraying, but the amount of chlorine that remains on the produce itself will be astronomical and not in any way safe!

Fresh Cut Fruit

If you thought that spraying an antimicrobial on fresh produce was concerning, here’s the really bad news.

Sterilox (or Aqualox or Aquatine… the same thing, just different names) is being sprayed directly on the fresh cut fruits and vegetables sold in containers too.

Believe it or not, restaurants often use it to crisp up the veggies on salad bars as well.

Have you ever opened a container of fresh-cut organic produce from the health food store and washed it before eating?

I know I haven’t.

This is from the company’s website on using Sterilox with fresh cut fruit. (7, 8)

To keep up with time-starved consumers, the fresh cut fruits and vegetables has become a high value signature category for the produce department.  Rinsing fresh cut fruits and vegetables in Produce Maxx [Sterilox] reduces spoilage-causing non-public health bacteria to enhance shelf life of the product while also protecting against cross contamination.

Significant consumer and retailer economic benefits include:

  • Protects against cross contamination when rinsing cut fruit in the same process water
  • Reduces spoilage-causing non-public health bacteria and product breakdown for better quality
  • Enables retailers to extend code date through purge reduction
  • All these benefits with no organoleptic impact to the product

Here’s a screengrab in case the company disappears the page.

So, while you may think that, “no big deal, I can wash off the Sterilox sprayed on the fresh produce before eating”, it’s a whole different issue with the fresh-cut produce, wouldn’t you agree?

Convenience seems to always have a price, doesn’t it?

Is it just me, or does it seem like we’re being poisoned at every turn even if we try to avoid the chemicals?

Cut up your own organic fruit and veggies my friends!

What About Other Healthfood Stores?

While I have not found a bottle of Sterilox at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, these companies are certainly applying the same or a similar product to their produce as well. (9)

My advice would be to shop only at a locally owned health food store where you can speak to the manager directly and confirm that the produce is not being sprayed with an antimicrobial product.

Other great options are to get your produce from a real farmer’s market (not a fake one like Sprouts) or from local farms directly.

Big corporate chains cut corners and your health is not of primary concern. Profits are.

References

(1, 2) FDA Approves Sterilox Food Safety Solution for Food Contact

(3, 8) Sterilox Produce Maxx (scroll down for fresh cut fruit)

(4, 9) BUYER BEWARE: Things May Not Be What They Seem in the Produce Department!

(5) Sterilox Produce Maxx Safety Data Sheet

(6) Water Disinfection with Chlorine and Chloramine

(7) Chemstar Sterilox Fresh Solutions

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