Baby carrots are touted as the perfect healthy snack, for both children and adults. But if you’ve ever picked a fresh carrot from the garden, you know that they’re rarely as uniformly shaped as the bite-sized carrots you’ll find bagged in the grocery store.
There are two different ways that you can produce a baby carrot, and unfortunately, their stories aren’t as cute as you might think.
1. A “true” baby carrot is a carrot grown to the “baby stage”, which is to say long before the root reaches its mature size. Sometimes they’re picked early to thin the crop, and sometimes they’re grown to this size on purpose as a specialty crop (read: expensive).
2. Most of the baby carrots you buy in the store are actually “manufactured” from larger carrots that are deemed too twisted or knobbly for commercial sale. Because of the conventional food system’s obsession with appearance (not taste or nutritional content), some commercial growers discard as much as 440 tons of carrots a day because of their imperfections.
Now, instead of trashing the imperfect carrots, manufacturers use industrial peelers to shave these larger carrots down into more attractive finger-foods. Despite the large amount of waste this generates, simply because people don’t like ugly-but-perfectly-edible carrots, it isn’t the most disturbing fact about baby carrots.
Because the “manufactured” baby carrots no longer have their thick protective skins, industry standards dictate they must be dipped in a bath of chlorine water as an antimicrobial treatment. If you’ve ever stored baby carrots in the fridge for a few days longer than you should, you’ve probably seen a strange white film forming on them–that’s the carrot drying out prematurely .
Still wanna pack a sandwich baggie of baby carrots in your kid’s lunch box? Yuck–probably not.
Keep in mind that if you purchase only certified organic baby carrots, it’s likely that they’ve been washed in a citrus-based non-toxic solution called Citrox instead–but with all the scandals about false organic labeling that have hit the news lately, do you really want to take that chance?
Image Credit: Flickr - Richard Faulder