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Misting of Produce Helps It Retain Moisture

April 23, 2001|Phil Lempert

Question: Why have supermarkets installed automatic "mists" in their produce departments? Does it help the produce stay fresher longer?

--MURIEL FOGELSON

Answer: Misting adds a bit of theater to the produce department; in fact, some supermarkets have been known to add sound effects--such as the roar of thunder--before the misting begins to warn customers. But misting can also help to keep produce fresher.

Most produce is between 85% and 95% water, and misting helps raise the humidity of certain vegetables to reduce moisture loss and enhance freshness, according to Kathy Means, a vice president of the Produce Marketing Assn. Misting should be used only on certain vegetables, such as green onions, cucumbers, broccoli and lettuces. It shouldn't be used for mushrooms or cauliflower.

You should be aware that misting could raise the price of the produce you buy, however. That's because misting can add up to 30% to the weight of some leafy vegetables, such as lettuce. So remember to shake off excess water before the produce is weighed.

Q: I've noticed that many green-colored foods list blue and yellow coloring in the ingredients, but not green. Why is that? I also find that I feel ill after ingesting green-colored foods.

HELENE HANADA

A: Most companies will use a combination of FDA-approved colors to enhance the appearance of colored foods. F. Jack Francis, a food scientist at the University of Massachusetts, explains that FD&C green, when used by itself, has a bright color and an unappetizing appearance. The FDA regulates the amount and combinations of colorings that can be used in food, Francis said.

An FDA spokeswoman said some consumers have reported allergic reactions or other health problems associated with Yellow #5, which the FDA requires to be listed on food labels. For more information on food colors and their possible health effects, contact the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at (888) SAFE-FOOD, or check the center's Web site at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov.

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