I stopped buying certain produce, like cabbage, salad, asparagus, broccolini, carrots, parsley and cilantro from Publix. They mist their vegetables with water. For the non-US audience: “misting” means the spraying of produce with a fine mist of water every 10 minutes or so by misting machines. Prodew Misting, one of the manufacturers of misting systems in the US, estimates that misting systems have an 80 percent penetration in the U.S. marketplace, but only 1 percent of retailers outside the US use them. There are a few exceptions in the US – Costco, Trader Joe’s and Aldi come to mind.
What’s my gripe about misting?
Frankly, it’s too much work at home to dry all this wet stuff. This being Florida, if you don’t dry it, it rots in 1 or 2 days, even in the fridge. So, here is what I do and let me point out up front, it’s a tedious and time-consuming procedure. I unpack all leafy veggies and grab those paper towels, spread them on the kitchen counter and start blotting! Green herbs are the ones that suffer the most. I untie the bundle, separate the twigs and leave them to “dry”. After that I roll the bunch loosely in new paper towels and stick them in a plastic bag and up into the fridge. Voila, the veggies last for a good 10 days more.
My written suggestion to Publix to stop misting certain produce was probably met with disbelief. This being Publix, I actually got an answer – a polite “thank you but no” followed by the usual “we strive to better your shopping experience with Publix”.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Publix, the largest supermarket chain in Florida, with a great selection, and excellent, friendly service – Publix is employee-owned. But on this one point, I beg to differ. In my opinion, misting is entirely unnecessary.
So why do they mist in the US?
Appearance and Freshness: Vegetables, just harvested today and still shiny from the morning mist – that’s probably the illusion we are being sold on. The argument of the misting machine manufacturers is that some vegetables require regular misting to keep from wilting and that misting extends shelf life. I am curious, why isn’t this enlightening fact accepted by Europeans, who consume more veggies than the fast food-centric US?
Making more Money: Produce paid for by the pound is more expensive when it’s sprayed simply because the water makes it heavier. It’s as simple as that! In addition, if you don’t dry the veggies at home they rot and – surprise – you’ll be back at the supermarket buying more. It’s one of the numerous sneaky practices of the food industry in the United States of Corporations.
The potential Downside: I am not disputing that there might be some benefits to misting, but I am afraid that the disadvantages of misting are being downplayed. What about the regular cleaning process of misting machines? Can we be sure that the misting spray is free of harmful microbes? I suspect that we have to rely here on the thoroughness of a grocery department’s highly motivated and underpaid staff. What about the fact that humid organic material composts much quicker in a wet – even if cool – environment than in a dry one?
If supermarkets need to control wilting why not package green leaf vegetables in biodegradable compostable plastic punctured by holes to allow for breathing? I mean bioplastic made entirely from sugarcane bagasse, making it completely biodegradable and compostable. Or do what they have done in Europe for centuries: just don’t mist vegetables!