Claire Downs
August 22, 2016 3:08 pm

It’s not okay to judge a book by its cover, so why do we shy away from purchasing bruised produce? In 2010, $30 billion worth of fruits and vegetables were wasted by American retailers and shoppers – partially because of cosmetic problems or perceived spoilage. On the contrary, a new TedTalk explains that you need not be so frightened of fruits gone funky or salad greens gone sad.

But first, what makes fruit bruise?

Spots are evidence of pathogens or other microbes co-existing on the vegetable’s surface, taking vital molecules as nutrients for their own survival. The good news is, these microbes are almost never bad for you.


Though these microbes are bacteria, they are only pathogens that break down fruit – not humans! In other words, what makes a plant “sick” will usually not ever make a human sick. A spot is just a clump of (non-harmful) bacteria that drains the color from a fruit’s surface. And bruises are usually caused when a fruit or veggie is damaged during transport, allowing fungi to infiltrate the surface, leaving those mushy brown spots. That’s why the spots taste bad.

“But you can usually salvage the rest of the fruit. The non-mushy spots, like the ones you typically see on apples or tomatoes are just on the surface, and don’t affect flavor,” says Elizabeth Brauer, an educator who narrates the TedTalk on the topic.

Of course, there is always a chance of ingesting human-harmful bacteria like E.coli or Salmonella, both of which can hitch a ride on the surface of a veggie or fruit. But because they are not plant pathogens, they don’t cause spots. They just hang out on the surface, invisible to the human eye.


But, don’t worry! It’s okay! According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources…

Washing fruit and vegetables can reduce and prevent you from getting sick. 

So next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t be afraid of the more “unique” looking produce that’s out there. It’s fine to eat, and some stores may even give you a discount!

For more info, check out the full TedTalk below!