5 Myths About Washing Produce (+ The Right Way To Do It)
Nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs in America every year.
Several large illness outbreaks have been caused by contaminated produce—including spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.
We’re going to break down the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations when it comes to cleaning produce.
Myth: The most important step to clean produce is finding the right soaking solution.
Fact: The most important first step is washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after washing produce.
Sing it with me, “Happy birthday to you…”
In all seriousness, ensure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you’re using to prepare your produce are also clean first!
Myth: You need to soak your produce in a solution for half an hour to get it clean.
Fact: According to the FDA, washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended.
This is because soap is designed for cleaning surfaces and hands, while detergent is designed to clean clothing—not formulated with consumption in mind.
A three-year study by researchers from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station discovered that rinsing produce under cold water immediately reduced pesticide residues for 9 out of 12 pesticides.
Some people advocate using soap, vinegar, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure. In reality, they are not any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water—and may even leave additional deposits behind.
The best way to clean produce is with H20 and a good ol’ rub.
Myth: You don’t need to wash peelable fruit.
Fact: Whether you eat the skin or not, rinse produce before you peel it.
This way, you ensure that dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife or your hands onto the fruit or vegetable.
In addition, slice away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
Myth: You need an extensive cleaning routine when you get home from the store.
Fact: Produce is most fresh if you wash it right before consumption. Pre-washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment that promotes bacterial growth.
General rules of thumb:
- Firm produce: The FDA recommends washing with a dedicated vegetable brush. Fruits include apples, lemons, pears, and root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Residues can be removed from their pores better with a brush.
- Delicate produce: Wash with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit. This includes produce such as berries and mushrooms.
- Leafy greens: Remove the outermost layer, submerge in a bowl of cool water, and swish it around to remove the grit before draining and rinsing with fresh water. This includes spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, leeks, and brussels sprouts.
Myth: Pre-washed produce still needs to be rinsed.
Fact: Pre-packaged food may have pre-washed written on the packaging—the guidelines used in the packaging facilities are incredibly stringent.
If you wash the produce, you may contaminate it because you'll introduce it to multiple touchpoints in your kitchen.
Your best bet? Skip the wash. Save water!
Glenda Lewis, an expert on foodborne illness with the FDA, says consumers should store perishable produce in the refrigerator at or below 40°F / 4°C.
Now that common produce-washing myths have been debunked, will you change anything about your produce routine? Perhaps you will use fewer resources or see your fruit and veggies lasting longer.