We all know chlorine is a poison. It’s toxic and has been linked to infertility and disease. Sadly it’s everywhere—in our drinking water, bleaching our paper towels and toilet paper, in pools, in PVC plastics, in pesticides, so we do our best to avoid it by getting unbleached products and filtering our water (even the showers!) and just when we thought we were safe, we find out that chlorine is routinely used to keep our healthy produce “fresh” by, and I quote the MMS Newsletter:

“In the grocery store, glistening carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc. all glisten and look fresh primarily because five days ago they were picked, washed, then passed under a cloud of ClO2 gas that destroyed bacteria and disease-germs that ordinarily cause food to quickly spoil.

Some transportation trucks carrying produce (sometimes on two-day trips) can blow some ClO2 into the enclosed truck before closing the rear doors. The spoiling of food begins from invisible surface contaminants. ClO2 eradicates such bacteria.”

I learned this first hand before searching for it on the web to confirm. A truck driver was explaining how when transporting strawberries, chlorine vapor kept his strawberries from molding and therefore looking pretty and lasting longer.Of course we already knew conventional strawberries have some of the worst pesticides and poisons sprayed on them to keep the pests away (makes sense, they are sweet and delicious, what little critter wouldn’t want to take a bite of that?!) and not only are those chemicals driven into the plant itself, but since they are hard to wash, they cannot be removed from the outside either. And now we learn about this little trick of chlorine gas to keep them looking freshly picked. Ahh, things are not always as they appear.

While searching for this I also learned that all those conveniently pre-cut fruits and vegetables we see in the produce counter are most probably dipped in a chlorine solution before cutting and again after cutting before being packaged and placed on the store shelf for our purchase so that they stay fresher longer.

Double-dipped chlorine strawberries gassed with chlorine in transit and a side of extra harmful pesticides from the farm, anyone? Yup, sounds fresh to me! Yet another reason to go organic

Author Annie Malka is a mother of four living in the Florida Keys. She writes about cooking, nutrition, organic foods and sustainability at her blog Hip Organic Mama.