The Truth About Baby Carrots

Pin It

The Truth About Baby Carrots by 100 Days of Real FoodWho would have guessed that one of the most “viral” things I’ve ever posted on Facebook would be about organic baby carrots? Clearly people want to understand and discuss baby carrots! As a result I decided to do some additional research on the topic and also restate what I learned (and shared) in my original post. So today I am shedding some light on the two mysteries that surround baby carrots: how they are made and if they are really “soaked in chlorine.” I buy baby carrots on occasion (they are not a regular purchase), and like others I honestly just wanted to know the truth.

And speaking of the truth, I want to share that I do not like to spread misinformation so please know the facts I am sharing do not come from Snopes or Google or a Facebook “friend” or any other questionable source.

3/5/13 update: To clarify, it is not my intent to discredit Snopes or other sources, but rather to point out that I did not rely on 3rd party information.

I called up the carrot company myself to get these answers (the 800 number is right there on the back of the package), and if you think produce companies would spread misinformation to customers like me about their government-regulated processes then that’s a whole other blog post for another day! But for now, I believe what they’ve told me – and sent me in writing – is pretty solid.

How Baby Carrots Are Made

Let’s face it – baby carrots do not look like regular carrots. First off, the size and rounded edges sort of resemble little “stubs,” and when you cut them down the middle you don’t quite see the same core that you would find in a regular carrot. What’s up with that?

According to Grimmway (maker of baby carrots under names like Cal-Organic), the carrots they use are a specific variety that are smaller in diameter than regular table carrots and grown just for the production of baby carrots. The end product is shorter in length than regular carrots because, well, they cut them. They say their baby carrot variety looks similar to a “regular” carrot right out of the ground except it’s smaller in diameter, sweeter, more tender, and – while it still has a core down the middle – the core is much more slender than a traditional table carrot. So the diameter of the baby carrot that you see in the store is the actual diameter of the original carrot. But these carrots grow about 8 – 10 inches long so as I mentioned they cut them into smaller chunks, abrasively peel them, then wash and package them for stores. (Pictures of this whole process are unfortunately proprietary.)

I asked why the edges of the peeled baby carrots are rounded and they said when they go through the peeler they tumble together (like a rock tumbler) so the edges get “polished” by other carrots during that process. I also asked what they do with the “waste” from the peels and tips, which they call the “mash,” and they said the tips are used for other products like shredded carrots (sold as salad toppers) and the peels are used for cattle feed. So long story short, just like there are different varieties of apples (Honey Crisp vs. Granny Smith) there are different varieties of carrots, and some happen to be smaller in diameter than others!

Are Baby Carrots “Soaked in Chlorine?”

There’s a pretty big rumor going around that peeled baby carrots are “soaked in chlorine.” Some even take it so far as to say what makes these carrots turn white over time is the chlorine coming to the surface. As it turns out, according to a written statement from Grimmway (maker of baby carrots), the carrots are treated with WATER that contains a small amount of chlorine. And this water/chlorine solution is “well within the limits established by the EPA and comparable to the amount acceptable in [public] drinking water.”

I am by no means condoning the consumption of chlorine (that’s an even bigger issue), but the amount of chlorine in the water they use is 4 parts per million (ppm), which, for some, is similar to what’s coming out of your tap. Again this is certainly not ideal, but I personally find that to be a lot less “dramatic” than carrots being soaked in straight up chlorine. They also said, “[The] chlorine is used to keep the carrots, the processing water and the processing equipment in a sanitary condition in order to prevent the spread of food-born pathogens [like e coli].”

How Does that Compare to the Chlorine in a Pool?

Believe it or not the government regulation for chlorine allowed in a swimming pool is LESS than what’s allowed in public drinking water, which varies by region but is generally 1 – 3 ppm! My first thought (aside from “that’s crazy”) is that I can sometimes smell chlorine coming off of swimming pools so how could that be? Apparently, according to multiple sources, the aroma that you smell when you are at the pool could actually be from the pool not having enough chlorine. Cited from the Water Quality & Health Council (and verified through many other sources), that smell could “indicate that the pool water has not been properly treated. A common cause is high levels of chloramines, formed when chlorine combines with body oils, perspiration, urine and other contaminants brought into pools by swimmers. Contrary to what most people think, a strong chemical smell is not an indication of too much chlorine in the pool. In fact, the pool may actually need additional chlorine treatment to get rid of chloramines and sanitize the water.” Nice.

So, Why do Baby Carrots Turn White?

The white color that you sometimes see on the outside of baby carrots is technically called “blush” and it’s the evidence of dehydration. This could even happen to your own fresh carrots that you peel and then let sit in the fridge for days or weeks prior to eating them. This happens because, according to Grimmway, even though the carrots have been pulled out of the ground and peeled they are still living roots so they sometimes turn white to create a new protective outer layer. They said this does not change the nutritional value or affect the food safety of the carrots…frankly it just isn’t pretty (and it could sometimes mean the carrots will taste a little dried out). Putting those carrots in a bowl of ice water will help bring back the bright orange color if it concerns you.

Conclusion

So, in summary, I’ve said this about conventional produce before and I’ll say it about baby carrots: Eating any produce is far better than eating none at all. But if avoiding standard tap water is important to you then you might want to rethink what kind of carrots you buy. Like I said above we normally buy whole carrots ourselves (and even grow our own in the winter!), but a couple readers pointed out to me that even if you buy fresh carrots then “wash” them off in your chlorinated tap water before eating them…how is that much different than the baby carrot process? And here we go further and further down the rabbit hole, which is honestly a place I like to avoid (since it’s clearly unrealistic to go live in a bubble somewhere). So, no matter what kind of carrots you decide to buy going forward (now that you have the facts), hopefully some of you, like me, will be relieved to know that baby carrots are NOT actually soaked in pure chlorine.

Our Sponsor: Plan to Eat

Before I let you go I want to make sure you know about our meal planning sponsor, Plan to Eat. If you plan on cleaning up your family’s diet in the New Year this could be the tool to help make it manageable. Unlike other meal planning services, with Plan to Eat you pick your own dinner recipes then they track and tabulate – in the form of a grocery list – all of it for you. You can do this by using recipes from your own collection or from online sources (like our blog!). They do offer a free 30-day trial if you’d like to give it a go.

 

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

233 comments to The Truth About Baby Carrots

  • Hi Lisa,

    Someone may have pointed this out to you already, but Snopes is not a source of misinformation, it’s actually an independent research website that does exactly what you’re doing here: researches rumors on the web and verifies or disproves their accuracy.

    So it doesn’t make any sense to say that you don’t get your information from Snopes, therefore we can trust that you’re not spreading misinformation. Getting your information from Snopes would actually mean that you were trying not to spread misinformation.

    Hope that makes sense. Not sure you understood what Snopes actually is.

    • Shana

      I wanted to comment to HOPE, you who said that ‘Snopes’ posts factual stories from the same place as Lisa – being from the carrot company.
      ‘Snopes’ encloses the sources used and none of which are by any carrot company. thus making it like a he said she said- third person web based site.
      I searched baby carrots on there and this is the site i received:
      http://www.snopes.com/food/tainted/carrots.asp
      At the bottom it lists its sources. I was looking for a brand name or grocery market because you wouldn’t ask a news paper writer a question like “how are baby carrots made?”
      The sources:
      Fishman, Charles. “Baby, Maybe.”
      Fast Company. May 2004 (p. 40).

      TechMan. “With Food, Trust Us, Low-Tech is Better.”
      Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1 July 2007 (p. F6).

      Weise, Elizabeth. “Digging the Baby Carrot.”
      USA Today. 11 August 2004.

      San Antonio Express-News. “Q&A.”
      21 April 2004 (p. F2)
      I didnt know what “fast Company” was so i searched it and found it was just a website showing bloggers articles.
      the other sources are from news papers.

    • Denis Logan

      Thanks Lisa, When I read that the hair went up on the back of my neck. Snopes is where I have been going for years when I hear something that sounds to hairy to be true. I have found that people I know that bad mouth Snopes are people that hear some thing untrue that fits their agenda and they just don’t want to know the truth.

    • Terri

      Everyone has a touch of bias in them. Everyone. We all look at the world through some sort of glasses…some political..our angle of history…

      Even Snopes has a touch of bias, I’ve noticed. They definitely lean a certain way politically. And I have heard in other ways: historically inaccurate.

      That is why I always also check truthorfiction.com

      http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/c/baby-cut-carrots.htm#.U775tyhFvS8

  • lgw

    I wonder what they would answer if you asked what else was in the water. I have heard that citric acid is also added because it helps the carrots retain their color longer. Also, the process for shaping the carrots looks like a lathe- is carves the carrots into this shape the way you may shape a table leg, for example. There are varieties of baby carrots, but the diameter of these suggests that they are still quite a bit larger than some of the smallers carrots grown by home gardeners. Companies also routinely add gases to bags of packaged produce so that they remain fresh while in the bag. These escape once the bag is opened and are supposed to be rendered basically inert.

    http://www.snapfreshfoods.com/Portals/0/Media%20Release/Baby%20Carrots%20Media%20Release%20Apr13v2.pdf

  • tomcrisp

    There are such things as genuine “baby” or immature carrots, though most of the product talked about here are cut carrots. I understand that a typical part of the process is a commercial potato peeler, or an adaptation thereof.

    Something I do believe is that all cello=bagged carrots, including the “full length” ones, have less flavor than carrots bought with the greens, which simply seem to taste fresher. Of course, root vegetables are valued for their long life, so … it’s fair to say that carrots with greens bought mid-winter have traveled some distance to the NE USA where I live.

  • […] then there is the rumor that baby carrots are washed and soaked in chlorine water. According to “100 days of real food” baby carrots “… are treated with WATER that contains a small amount of chlorine. And this […]

  • Billy Gilbert

    I’m very confused about the comments regarding chlorine. The EPA limit for chlorine in drinking water is a trace to 4 parts per million. Most water systems are .5ppm to 1.5. If a system is running at 4ppm they have issues or a long transit time to thier residents that would cause the free chlorine to get to unsafe levels.

    I would highly doubt anybody would use enough chlorine to cause carrots to turn white.

  • Denis Logan

    Why wouldn’t people believe baby carrots are “Real Carrots”. Farmers and researchers have doing hybrids for decades. Probably the shaper is something like the potato peeler we used in the Army Mess. It was shaped like a construction cement mixer, the inside was rough stone and as it turned it took off the outside (peel), it also rounded them somewhat. I guess if I would have left them in too long the potatoes would have been round like balls.

  • George

    thanks. to bad we just chucked the ones we just got.

  • Luzille Burnley

    Thanks for clearing up a lot of questions I had about baby carrots. I really like them and would not like to throw them out if still good to eat. Luzille

  • Russ Cooper

    FWIW, I grow a Nantes Hybrid from Stokes called Goldfinger. It produces a full sized carrot with a blunt nose if left in the ground to full majority, however, if taken as a “baby”, e.g. 4-6 weeks before full maturity, it gives me a 1″ diameter baby carrot that’s 4-6″ in length. This version has all of the features mentioned in the original article, with the exception I’ve watered with well water. They are very sweet, have virtually no core, and a blunt nose (albeit with a tap root). I use a pair of scissors to snip off the root, and that’s it, a “real” baby carrot is born.

    I pick these in an effort to thin my carrot crops. This lets me get both another crop of baby carrots (in 4-6 weeks) as well as full grown Goldfingers (7-8″ @ 1.5-2″ diameter).

    I just had to point this out as it seems as though the article suggests that “baby carrots” are a distinct variety…they aren’t, they’re just immature carrots which tend to be sweeter and more tender than fully mature carrots.

    Cheers,
    Russ

Leave a Reply