Why Don't Grocery Store Potatoes Sprout?

Why don’t grocery store potatoes sprout and then rot?

If you have ever grown a potato in your backyard garden, you know for sure that if potatoes are not stored in a cold, dark place, they immediately sprout -- huge, long sprouts. Sprouting soon turns them soft, and they begin to rot.

So here is the question: If homegrown potatoes sprout in light or warmth, why are the potatoes in the grocery store not sprouting the same giant sprouts? (Okay -- some grocery store potatoes do sometimes send out pathetic sprouts when they are old -- nothing like real garden potatoes sprouts, if you’ve ever seen them).

My research has shown two answers. First, grocery store potatoes are treated with a chemical called “Clorpropham”. This chemical is also sold under the names Beet-Kleen, Bud Nip, Chloro IPC, CIPC, Furloe, Sprout Nip, Spud-Nic, Taterpex, Triherbide-CIPC and Unicrop CIPC.

Second, the potatoes are exposed to so-called “low level” nuclear radiation. This is called irradiation.

Which leads to more questions. First, did you know your grocery store potatoes were treated with a chemical, or radiation, or both? Not likely -- because by federal law, potato sellers are not required to reveal this information. You read that right -- it is legal under federal law for potato growers and sellers to keep silent about the fact that the potatoes are treated with a chemical, or radiation, or both.

Is the chemical safe? A 1993 Cornell University study says this: “Chlorpropham is moderately toxic by ingestion. It may cause irritation of the eyes or skin. Symptoms of poisoning in laboratory animals have included listlessness, incoordination, nose bleeds, protruding eyes, bloody tears, difficulty in breathing, prostration, inability to urinate, high fevers, and death. Autopsies of animals have shown inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining, congestion of the brain, lungs and other organs, and degenerative changes in the kidneys and liver. Chronic exposure of laboratory animals has caused retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen and death. Long-term exposure to chlorpropham may cause adverse reproductive effects. Chlorpropham may cross the placenta.”


Here is a direct link to the Cornell University study:


Here is a direct link to a University of Idaho study showing that potato growers, hoping to capture the “organic” market, are testing other ways of prohibiting sprouting, including treating potatoes with hydrogen peroxide because “The application of hydrogen peroxide to organic produce
is also allowed by the National Organic Program standards.”


Irradiation has its own problems. First, it damages the nutrients and vitamins naturally found in vegetables, and second, it turns pesticides on vegetables into new chemicals. And once again, federal law says neither the grocery store nor the grower has to tell you, the shopper, that your food has been irradiated. According to federal law, irradiated food (most vegetables in the grocery store are irradiated) can legally be labeled organic -- so even if you are buying in the organic section, your food is irradiated.  Here is a link with more information:


I’m late in leaving to give a speech this morning on this very subject. I’ll try to write more about this later. If you would like more information about some of the reasons to consider growing your own real food, consider taking a look at my books -- my newest book, The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast, and my national besteseller, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers. -Caleb


  1. I knew about potatoes being chemically treated to prevent sprouting but not about the irradiation. Thank you Caleb for a very informative post!

  2. Oh, I had no idea about this, I always learn something new on your blog!

  3. This is horrifying. Thanks for the information!

  4. Green spots on potatoes are moderately toxic by ingestion. However, as is always the case, dosage matters. Im not concerned about either Clorpropham or irradiation.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I didn't realize potatoes are treated in this way, but I think deep inside me I always suspected it. Both sets of my grandparents used every chemical in creation in their respective gardens. They didn't seem to think about the consequences of what they were doing or try to find a better way. Speaking for myself, I shop and buy organic. My garden gets no pesticides.