Washing Fresh Vegetables and Fruits – Do’s and Don’ts. In the eye-opening 2009 documentary Fresh, one farmer stated, “Chemical agriculture is like a drug trip. It takes more and more every year to get the same kick.” While the agriculture business works to maximize crop yields through chemical intervention, many families fail to wash their veggies and fruits properly.
Properly cleaning fresh produce removes soil, microbial pathogens, and pesticides. You likely already understand the benefits of a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals found in fresh produce. However, do you know how to correctly wash the fruits and vegetables you bring home from the farmer’s market or grocery store?
The Need to Wash Veggies and Fruits
There are many reasons you should wash fresh produce before consuming it. Although your fruits and veggies were born of the soil and purchased fresh, there may be lingering and invisible dangers along the surface. Many farmers utilize pesticides that kill insects that may feed on and damage crops. These chemicals could still reside in your fresh produce.
You may wonder what effects these pesticides could have on your body. Shockingly, according to a recent study published in the Human Reproduction Journal, some of these chemicals may lead to reproductive issues in women and low fertility in men.
Another potential hazard is microbial pathogens like salmonella or E. coli. You wouldn’t want to introduce bacterial microbes into your body that could lead to norovirus. Unfortunately, bacterial microbes are invisible to the naked eye, and no amount of natural visual inspection would reveal any evidence of them.
The Right Way to Wash Veggies and Fruits
So, now you understand fresh produce is healthy, but washing it properly is critical to avoid exposure to hazardous substances and microbes. You may be tempted to wash them quickly under the tap, chop and boil them in a cooking vessel and get back to watching that exciting NFL game. After all, they will be cooked, and heat kills germs right? Maybe not. So how do you properly wash fruits and veggies according to the FDA?
First, thoroughly wash the produce under cold running water for several minutes. For some varieties, such as Zucchini, you can use a brush designed to scrub away excess residue. For more delicate produce, running water should suffice.
Next, you’ll need to use a clean cloth or paper towel and carefully dry the produce. The drying process also helps to remove bacteria that may still be clinging to the surface.
Some produce that comes in a sealed bag, like lettuce or cherry tomatoes, states that it has been pre-washed. The FDA confirms that if the product is pre-washed, consumers don’t need to rewash it before enjoying it.
Things to Avoid: Washing Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
While you must ensure that fresh produce is clean before eating, there are some things to avoid. For example, soap is a typical household cleaner, and you may be tempted to use it on fresh produce. Don’t. Fresh produce can be very porous and absorb the soap regardless of how long you rinse it afterward. Please stay away from any detergents as they too can seep into the vulnerable fruit or veggie and possibly lead to illness.
Another issue to avoid involves peeling before washing produce. You’ll want to methodically wash the exterior of the produce before peeling; otherwise, bacteria and other material could transfer from the outside layer in.
While you may have washed your hands recently, it’s good practice to rewash them before cleaning fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, failure to wash your hands first could further contaminate the produce.
Misconceptions About Washing Fresh Produce
Many theories are floating around about washing produce, and it can be challenging to differentiate fact from fiction. For example, some believe that a commercial vegetable wash is the most effective means of cleaning fresh produce. However, the Center for Food Safety conducted a study that concluded plain water is just as effective or even better in some cases.
Another misconception some have asserted is that organic produce doesn’t require washing because it’s pesticide-free. Unfortunately, this is incorrect, as organic produce may still harbor microorganisms and has likely been handled by several people before you.
Summary: Washing Fresh Vegetables and Fruits
Eating fresh produce provides the body with essential nutrients that support a healthy lifestyle. However, it’s crucial to wash fresh fruits and veggies before eating. Washing produce is simple and only requires cold running water, a cleaning brush, and a clean towel for drying. By avoiding soaps, detergents, and some misconceptions about cleaning fresh produce, you can safely enjoy nature’s bounty.