Baby Carrots Processed with Dangerous Chlorine

Posted by Eric Troy on 02 Dec 2013 15:03

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A chain email began in late 2008, concerning a risk posed to consumers of bagged baby carrots. This email subsequently went viral and was posted to many sites. The message described how baby carrots are processed and claims that they are dipped into a solution of chlorine and water to preserve them, the same chlorine in your pool. This is followed with the statement that chlorine is a well-known carcinogen and request to pass the message along. The message is included, at the bottom of this article, in its entirety. How true are these claims about baby carrots?

There is such a thing as actual "baby" carrots, which are an early yielding carrot that has a much sweeter taste. However, it is true that the packaged baby carrot products you find in grocery stores are not actually young or baby carrots, but mature carrots that are trimmed and shaped to the small shape, using an industrial process. These are usually labelled Baby Cut Carrots.

It is also true that a chlorine and water solution is used to clean and preserve them. A similar washing process is used for most ready-to-eat produce products, like bagged lettuce or salad mixes. However, there is no reason to believe that this chlorine washing process poses a threat to your health.

baby carrots with tops

Young "baby" carrots.
image by nanao wagatsuma via wikimedia

baby carrots with tops

Young "baby" carrots.
image by nanao wagatsuma via wikimedia

The white blush described in the email does occur, after a time, on some bagged baby carrots. This white blush has nothing whatsoever to do with chlorine and the claim that chlorine "resurfaces" makes it seem as if chlorine is absorbed by the carrot and then leaches to the surface, causing the white blush. This is not true at all. The white blush is caused by superficial surface dehydration of the carrots and the collapse of injured, cut cells (due to the abrasion of the surface during processing). The white coating is simply cellular debris clinging to the surface. It certainly makes the carrots look less attractive, but is harmless to your health. The appearance of white blush has nothing to do with chlorine processing, and much more to do with the type of plastic bag the carrots are stored in. In fact, the control of bacterial contamination and the appearance of white blush causes the need for much different bagging environments, a challenge for the industry.

On the other hand, poorly handled or processed carrots might develop an off flavor due to acidification, and carrots that are not decontaminated can start going bad after 4 to 5 days, developing a slimy film due to microbial growth, or turning soft and rubbery. We are often urged to buy only organic carrots to avoid chemical processing, which often develop a slimy, soft texture. This slimy surface is something to be avoided and is a clear indication that bacteria is growing on the carrots.

baby cut carrots in bowl

Baby cut carrots

baby cut carrots in bowl

Baby cut carrots

It is true, also, that misshapen or crooked carrots used to be used for baby carrots, but nowadays, carrots are specifically grown for the purpose.

Baby Carrot and Chlorine Email


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 your pool) since they do not have their skin or natural protective covering, they give the m 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 which are practically plastic?

We do hope that this information can be passed on to as many people as possible in the hopes of informing them where these carrots come from and how they are processed. Chlorine is a very well known carcinogen.

Please let us make this information available to as many people as possible."

If you care about your family and friends, pass it on.

1. Gómez-López, Vicente M. Decontamination of Fresh and Minimally Processed Produce. Ames, IA: Blackwell Pub., 2012.
2. Brody, Aaron L., Hong Zhuang, and Jung H. Han. Modified Atmosphere Packaging for Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
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