Is juicing spinach hurting me? Home toxicity test?
June 12, 2013 5:34 AM   Subscribe

I juice about a half pound of spinach everyday. I have been reading about spinach being one of the dirty dozen. That is, it being full of pesticides. I wash the spinach about five time before juicing. I have two questions. Is anyone here in the hive aware of there being an affordable home testing kit for pesticides/toxicity? Something that will allow me to see what I may be consuming. My other question is if I am juicing this quantity am I putting my self at greater risk of poisoning? I get local organic spinach when I can, but this is costly and not always available.
posted by citybuddha to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
America's Test Kitchen recommends washing fruits and vegetables with a solution that is 3 parts water and 1 part white vinegar to remove surface wax (for apples and the like), pesticides, and bacteria (spinach has had problems with e coli contamination recently)

In their tests, they found that:
Cold water rinse removed only 25% of the bacteria.
Scrubbing with a brush removed 85%.
The vinegar solution removed 98%.

So there you go. 1 part vinegar, 3 parts water.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:00 AM on June 12, 2013 [44 favorites]


Is anyone here in the hive aware of there being an affordable home testing kit for pesticides/toxicity?

In my professional opinion, as an environmental chemist, anyone offering such is a scammer. Right now, for the levels of residues you are concerned about, lab instrumentation is needed. There are quite a few companies/labs which can do this sort of testing, but it can be expensive. Just measuring the chemical residue levels would cost a hundred to perhaps a thousand dollars a measurement (depending on how many kinds of pesticides and how sensitive). Measuring toxicities, particularly human health and sub-lethal ones is research-grant-money, NIH-level costs.

There is some decent general information at What's On My Food, but I realize that that's of limited use. The USDA Pesiticide Data Program does surveys of residues on food, spinach sometimes being among the basket of products they examine. Their datasets can be found here.
posted by bonehead at 6:30 AM on June 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I get local organic spinach when I can, but this is costly and not always available.

Significantly, "organic" does not mean "pesticide-free". Organic farmers may use pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides so long as they are not derived from synthetic ingredients.

Walrus' wash would be the good way to go. And, if you are going to use it, use it even on organic produce.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:53 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trader Joe's sells a a pesticide wash. We put a few drops in a bowl of water and then wash our vegetables in that. However, when I buy spinach, it usually says that it is 'triple washed', so I assume it is safe to eat.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:02 AM on June 12, 2013


If you're that concerned with the cleanliness and also the cost of organic spinach I suggest you make yourself a gutter garden. If you eat a lot of spinach I bet you could get by with 4-5 gutter troughs and you would have spinach all summer and into the fall. Total cost for the first year would be fairly high, but pretty soon you would have a free (well the cost of a pack of seeds) spinach all spring and summer long. You would also know exactly what went onto it so it can be as organic or non as you want.
posted by koolkat at 7:10 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is Walrus' wash ?
posted by citybuddha at 7:31 AM on June 12, 2013


I assume Tanizaki's comment is referring to I am the Walrus's suggestion to wash/scrub with a solution of:
1 part vinegar, 3 parts water.
posted by spacewrench at 7:48 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


pretty soon you would have a free (well the cost of a pack of seeds) spinach all spring and summer long.

Not so much in most of the U.S. Spinach bolts when the weather gets warm. It's a spring and fall crop here.
posted by jon1270 at 8:20 AM on June 12, 2013


Not so much in most of the U.S. Spinach bolts when the weather gets warm. It's a spring and fall crop here.

Ahh seeing as all of my experience is growing things in Vermont and England I always forget that there are places where things get really hot. I tend to worry more about frosts than excess heat.
posted by koolkat at 8:35 AM on June 12, 2013


Homegrown spring and fall spinach can freeze quite well though.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:36 AM on June 12, 2013


Long before I'd be worried about pesticide concentrations that aren't removed by washing (given a relatively robust washing regime), I'd be worried about the potential for Calcium Oxalate type kidney stones from eating too much spinach.

(I'm a person who thinks one of those 1lb boxes of "spring mix" greens is a single serving lunch salad, so I'm obviously not that worried about extra oxalic acid in my diet, but if you're talking about large enough quantities of greens to make pesticide exposure an issue, you're way into other concerns territory.)
posted by straw at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is anyone here in the hive aware of there being an affordable home testing kit for pesticides/toxicity?

Depends what you mean by affordable. I've heard tell of those in the biohacking community who've put together a small home lab for under $10,000 -- so, it's not completely impossible, but it would be far cheaper to grow your own spinach.

You can set up lights indoors, so if you have air conditioning you wouldn't have to worry about it bolting from heat in the summer.

if I am juicing this quantity am I putting my self at greater risk of poisoning?

Obviously, if there is anything in the spinach you want to minimize exposure to, you're going to be getting 7 times as much of it as someone who eats half a pound of spinach a week.
posted by yohko at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2013


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