Baby Carrots: A Great Way to Get Kids to Snack on Veggies, But Are They Safe?
By Anastasia Pantsios
Baby carrots are a great way to get kids to snack on veggies but are they really safe?
You've probably heard the stories about baby carrots, those convenient bags of snack-sized mini-carrots that have all but replaced the big ones that used to be standard. You may have heard that they are whittled down from old, misshapen, discarded full-sized carrots and soaked in chlorine to keep them fresh, that when they get that white film you sometimes see, that's the chlorine coming to the surface. So the next time you're in the store, you notice the bag doesn't actually say "baby carrots," but rather "baby cut carrots," and you hesitate to buy them.
"Baby carrots have become a lunch box staple," it says, revealing that they first appeared in U.S. supermarkets in 1989. "Parents love them for their convenience and because they're seen as a healthy food choice. Kids love them because they're sweet and fun to eat. But what's the real deal behind baby carrots? After all, they're not like regular carrots. They're perfectly shaped with rounded edges; they don't have the same thick core; and, even peeled, they are bright orange. A quick Google search of baby carrots turns up some frightening information, and misinformation, on how they are made and whether they are really "'soaked in chlorine.'"So what's the real story? The World Carrot Museum is a website based in the UK, and it can tell you everything you might conceivably want to know about carrots, baby or otherwise.
The supermarket baby carrots are not true baby carrots—varieties such as Adelaide and Caracas that only grow to a smaller size than the typical 7-8 inch carrot or longer varieties harvested early. Here's how they came to be, according to the World Carrot Museum:
"In the 1980s supermarkets expected carrots to be a particular size, shape and color. Anything else had to be sold for juice or processing or animal feed or just thrown away. One farmer wondered what would happen if he peeled the skin off the gnarly carrots, cut them into pieces and sold them in bags. He made up a few test batches to show his buyers. One batch, cut into 1-inch bites and peeled round, he called 'bunny balls.' Another batch, peeled and cut 2 inches long, looked like little baby carrots. Bunny balls never made it. But baby carrots were a hit. They transformed the whole industry."
Since then, carrots have been specially bred to make baby carrots: sweeter, uniformly colored, longer and thinner to make them easily cut to similar size.
So what about the chlorine? And the white film? Bolthouse Farms, the world's biggest producer of cut and baby carrots, has obviously heard these stories many times too, because its got a webpage called "The Truth About Baby Carrots."
It explains that the baby carrots are indeed washed in a chlorinated water solution—not the same as the chlorine used to disinfect swimming pools—to kill bacteria and other potential contamination and then rinsed. But so are many other pre-packaged vegetables such as salad mixes. If that makes you uneasy, go organic. "Organic growers use a citrus based non-toxic solution called citrox, the natural alternative to synthetic biocides for the decontamination of fresh produce, food and beverages," says the World Carrot Museum.
As for the white residue, that's not any sort of chemical. It's just a sign the carrot is drying out and its color should be restored by soaking it in water for a few minutes. Baby carrots are more prone to this drying appearance because the outer skin has been removed and their entire surface exposed. The same thing would happen to the exposed end of a large carrot if you cut it. If you're into science, the World Carrot Museum can give you more information than you ever dreamed you needed on the natural processes that make this happen.
The lack of peel points to the actual drawback of baby carrots: much of the nutritional value of a carrot is in the peel. But even baby carrots provide a good dose of powerful nutrients, such as beta-carotene, which is crucial to eye health, as well as vitamins A, B, C and E, and minerals such as potassium, copper and magnesium. They're low in calories as well. And if sweet, crunchy, bite-sized carrots are what it takes to get your child to eat his vegetables, then toss that bag in your shopping cart.
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By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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