If you spend any time in a grocery store, you may have noticed store employees spraying the produce with cool mists of water. Some stores even use automatic misting machines to keep the fruits and vegetables hydrated. You may not know the reasons for this hydration, however, and you may be surprised to learn that it can sometimes do more harm than good.
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When produce is stripped from the vine or tree, it loses much of its natural hydration. While this does not necessarily doom the produce to a more swift death, it can dry out fruits and vegetables to some extent. Misting the produce in the supermarket keeps it hydrated so that it maintains moisture throughout the course of its shelf life. Moisture loss reduces the size and weight of produce, so by keeping the fruits and veggies hydrated, store owners can compensate for this.
Keeping a piece of produce hydrated does not necessarily keep it fresher, but it does give it the appearance of freshness, and in retail, appearances are important. When walking through the grocery store, would you be more likely to a visibly moist and juicy red plum, or an apparently dry red plum? Chances are, you would choose the latter, and store owners are aware of this. Keeping the produce hydrated makes it look desirable.
Problems With Spraying
In some cases, the constant misting of produce may do more harm than good. Too much moisture can cause produce to mold and rot. There have also been documented cases of excessive misting leading to Legionnaires' disease, a flu-like respiratory condition that requires antibiotics. In some cases, Legionnaires' can prove fatal. While this problem has occurred in misted produce in only rare isolated cases and involved automatic misting machines that may have been contaminated, it illustrates that the constant hydration may not always work in the best interest of the consumers.
When selecting produce, always examine it carefully. A firm and heavy piece of fruit may just be a regular piece of fruit with excess moisture, and any signs of mold should tell you to walk away. Aside from that, you can safely purchase both wet and dry produce, as long as it appears ripe. Always wash produce before eating it to remove any pesticides or impurities that have accumulated.