By David Whitney, Produce Manager, Co-op Owner
Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet, but they quite literally go from field-to-table to get to you — and who knows if that journey included a pit-stop on the warehouse floor… So how should you wash your produce when you get it home? There are many myths swirling around — and we’re debunking the most popular ones.
Myth: Produce Spray or Soap Is the Best Way to Clean Your Fruits and Vegetables
Fact: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or commercial produce wash is not recommended. The CDC also doesn’t recommend washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash. Soap or detergent residues can stay on produce. The FDA has not evaluated the safety of residues left from soaps and detergents if ingested.
Myth: You Need to Wash Pre-Washed Produce
Fact: Many pre-cut, bagged or packaged fruits and vegetables are pre-washed and ready to eat. This will be written on the package and you can use the contents without any further washing — the guidelines used in the packaging facilities are extremely stringent. If you do wash the re-washed produce, you have a greater chance of contaminating it because you’ll take it into multiple spots around your kitchen — including a splashy sink.
Myth: Use Diluted Bleach to Destroy Any Germs on Fresh Produce
Fact: Bleach can destroy harmful microorganisms, but it should not be ingested! You should never wash your produce with bleach or a diluted bleach solution.
How To Wash Your Produce: The Partnership for Food Safety recommends cleaning produce properly by gently rinsing it under cold running water. If you do have a tough exterior to your produce, like melon or pineapple, use a clean stiff bristled brush under running water. The CDC gives even more details regarding washing fresh produce. They recommend cleaning fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking — unless the package says the produce has been washed (like packaged triple washed baby spinach). They also recommend washing or scrubbing the produce under running water even if you won’t be eating the peel as dirt or germs on the skin can get inside the fruits and vegetables when you cut them. Also, cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. To dry fruits and vegetables, use a clean paper towel.
If you’re working with something like spinach, leeks, or other leafy greens which can have a lot of dirt, place the produce in a large bowl of cold water, swish it around to remove the grit, lift it out, and drain in a colander. You want to make sure you don’t dump the gritty water back onto the food; try setting the colander inside the bowl so you can easily lift the leaves out. If there is still grit left on the food, then repeat the process.