The Secret World of Baby Carrots

Can we agree that once we’re to the point of demonizing baby carrots that maybe we’ve gone too far with the whole food fear epidemic? Especially when the real story is actually far more interesting.

It turns out that the villain in the carrot tale is us. We were the produce-buying public that kept leaving the bent or double-ended carrots in the store to go rubbery. We were the ones who rejected all of that healthy food. And if we wouldn’t buy them why would the grocery store want to pay the distributor for them? And in turn, why would the distributor want to buy them from the farmer?

Everyone wants food waste tackled but our finickiness was leading up to 30% of a carrot crop being rejected. That was a problem. Baby carrots were the solution.

They aren’t some evil invention. It’s actually kind of amazing that anyone chose them to demonize. They’re like the baby seals of the produce aisle. Do people really find it easy to believe that they’re being poisoned by something that looks like a baby’s finger? Apparently some did.

The facts are; we can talk about how open and accepting we are, but our buying habits reveal that we are so shallow and fearful that we won’t even buy a bent carrot! So, rather than throw out up to 30% of a harvest, a very smart farmer named Mike Yurosek figured out how to use a potato peeler to make them all one size so they could be bagged for snacking. It solved the farmer’s problem, it provided the consumer with a useful new healthy product that looks great on snack trays, and it meant 30% of the energy and time that went into the crop and its delivery wasn’t being wasted. Win-win-win-win-winwinwin. Carrot sales rose by over 30%, which means more kids are eating healthier thanks to baby carrots.

But we live in the internet age, so you only need a single fearful person to literally invent an issue and then create a meme and before you know it the misinformation has travelled around the world before the factual information even has a chance to be collected. That’s how the story started about the baby carrots being bathed in chlorine.

The truth is, they are washed in chlorine, but to only say that without the other facts is misleading. It’s how much chlorine and why? We all have chlorine as an aspect of our own human chemical composition. In this case, it’s used on the carrots to prevent fungus from growing on them that can lead to E. coli poisoning. Would people rather have the fungus when the treatment isn’t dangerous? Even Farmers Market carrots get washed in chlorine every time we rinse them off with tap water in our sinks.

Isn’t difficult to tell that these theories about baths of chemicals are being constructed by people who have never run businesses, because to any businessperson this “chlorine bath” that keeps getting talked about would be recognized as an expense. A substantial one. Precisely because they are expenses to businesses, no one is going to be using any chemicals that they don’t really need to and they will be motivated to pursue any technologies that would make them unnecessary, which is why farmers like BT varieties.

If you take a carrot from your garden and cut it up and put it in your fridge, it too will turn white. But you don’t want to waste your garden carrot. You know all of the hard work that went into growing that. So what do you do? You take your whitened sliced garden carrots and you rinse them off with water (with chlorine) in the sink and sure enough they are as good as new and they taste great.

This explains why the farmer rinses the carrots before putting them in the bag–so they’ll stay orange and vibrant for all of the picky eaters who would otherwise toss away a farmer’s hard work. We may be loathe to admit it but, the simple truth is, we’ll only eat things if they look good enough. That being the case, instead of attacking the farmer for getting kids to eat more healthy food while also solving our food waste problem, maybe the rest of us should just start buying our carrots by weight instead of by appearance.