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by Beth Scheckelhoff

Using bleach in wash water and on food contact surfaces

Produce safety is a top concern for growers, buyers, marketers, and consumers. Fruit and vegetable growers often use bleach solutions with varying concentrations of sodium hypochlorite to clean growing equipment, utensils, bins, and even to wash harvested fruits and vegetables. Bleach is readily available, inexpensive and easy-to-use.

by Beth Scheckelhoff

The active ingredient in bleach is sodium hypochlorite and is considered a pesticide requiring labeling by the EPA. Products containing sodium hypochlorite must be used according to label directions as the label is the law. Here are a few things to check before using bleach or any pesticide product in production or post-harvest:
  • Check the National Pesticide Information Retrieval System (NPIRS) database to see if the product or active ingredient is federally active.
  • Check each product label to ensure the intended use is listed, whether that be fruit and vegetable washing or sanitizing equipment and food contact surfaces. Bleach products generally have a long list of approved uses that do not appear on the rather small container label but do appear on the supplemental label. When in doubt, find complete labels for registered pesticides at EPA’s Pesticide Product and Label site. (Example: Clorox Bleach products with the EPA registration number 5813-100 are labeled for both sanitizing food contact surfaces as well as for washing fruits and vegetables. However, Clorox Fresh Scent Bleach (EPA 5813-20) is not labeled for either of these uses.)
  • Make sure the product is also registered for use in the state of application. You can also search the NPIRS database for a listing of state-registered pesticide products. (Example: While there are numerous bleach products registered under EPA number 1672-67, only five of these products are registered for use in Ohio.)
When in doubt, check with your state pesticide regulatory agency for additional information or guidance. Bottom line: read and follow the pesticide label, and have a current copy on file in the greenhouse or office!

Source: eGroBlog

Publication date: 4/19/2017