Here’s the Truth — Once and for All — About Those Misting Systems at the Grocery Store

updated May 1, 2019
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Have you ever walked by the produce display right as those misters go off? Just a fine spritz that covers everything with a dewy, fresh-picked glow — it’s fun, right? This mist has actually been the subject of much controversy. Does the spray clean the vegetables? Does it help the produce last longer? Is it a scam to make you buy more? What exactly is in that spray? Is it harmful at all?

We got to the bottom of things and answered all these questions.

Is that produce mister harmful to your health?

The concern that this spray is harmful is linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease in the early 1990s that was ultimately traced back to contaminated spraying systems. Needless to say, since then the systems (and water that goes through them) have become heavily regulated and routinely maintained, so you’re more likely to get sick from the germs on other people’s hands that have touched the fruit than from that cool mist.

What exactly is in that spray?

It’s water. That’s it.

Is it a scam to make you spend more money?

There are folks out there that say misting is just a scam to make you spend more money — first, by enticing shoppers with that freshly plucked glow, and second, by coating or artificially plumping up veggies so that they’re heavier at the register.

The first one, sure. If you’re used to your produce looking dewy, it will be more appealing than if it’s dry and sad. It’s common practice in the U.S., so we’ve come to expect it. But to the charge of it costing more? We say phooey. The amount of weight those water droplets are adding is marginal; if it adds another penny, we’d be surprised. Unless if, say, your head of lettuce has puddles of water in it — but that would be bad grocery store practice, anyway. Because, if there’s too much water, the food will rot sooner, which stores don’t want, for sure!

Does that mister help the produce last longer?

Yes! The reason grocery stores mist fresh greens and other produce comes down to simple science. Cut fruits and veggies — just like cut flowers in a bouquet — wilt as they lose moisture. Since they’re no longer connected to their roots, they can’t absorb water the way nature intended and they’ll rot more quickly. So misting systems deliver a fine layer of water to the surface of the vegetable, and keep the shelves they’re sitting on a more humid environment that the rest of the store.

Because humidity is a hazard to most of the other stuff in the grocery store — crackers, flour, potatoes — using a misting system to target a small section of the refrigerated produce is the most efficient way to keep that produce fresher for longer (just like most refrigerators have humidity-controlled produce drawers to keep your at-home refrigerated produce fresher for longer).

Does it clean the produce for you?

No, the water does not clean the produce, even though a fresh water rinse is the best way to clean off your produce — it’s not in sufficient quantity or force to dislodge any bacteria. So you’ll still need to wash your produce at home before you eat it.

Do you have any other questions about those misting systems? Leave them in the comments below!