While it is hard to pinpoint exactly what causes some of the outbreaks, the most agreed upon way of reducing the risk of these illnesses is properly washing your produce.
Many people, like me, were brought up thinking that washing fruits and veggies with just your hands and some sink water would rid the produce of any potential health risks. While that could have been true in the past, now more than ever, pesticides and other chemicals are being used to treat the produce you eat and maintain a stable supply and demand chain for the farmers that grow them. Bacteria can also find its way onto the produce and, without the proper precaution, can cause harm to your body. Now I’m not trying to scare you into thinking the produce you are buying is bad, all you have to remember is to make sure that you wash them properly when you get home from the store.
Don’t just trust me, trust the FDA
You may be thinking, “What does this guy know about washing produce?” and you would be right, I’m no produce-washing expert. But do you know who is: the FDA.
Here are 7 tips the FDA recommends when cleaning fresh produce:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before AND after cleaning your produce. This helps prevent any contamination from your hands to the food, as well as from the food to your hands.
- If you notice bruising or any other damage, cut away the damaged area BEFORE you cleaning.
- Always rinse produce BEFORE you peel it. This prevents any bacteria from being transferred from the knife onto the inside layer of the product.
- Gently rub produce under plain running water to clean. You may use soap, but it is not a necessity.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm surfaces of produce such as on melons and cucumbers. If you do not have a vegetable brush, a soft bristle toothbrush will work just as well.
- Make sure to dry produce after washing with a clean cloth or paper towel to rid the product of any leftover bacteria.
- For lettuce or cabbage, peel the outermost leaf off, as those will contain the most bacteria.
DIY Vinegar Wash
Finally, you may have also seen a new trend of soaking or spraying your produce with a homemade Apple Cider Vinegar or white vinegar mixture. Vinegar is a great way of getting rid of dirt and bacteria, while being nontoxic for the consumer. Here is what you’ll need to create your own vinegar wash:
- Apple cider or White vinegar
- Spray bottle or bowl (for soaking)
For Spray Bottle: Fill a spray bottle with 1 part vinegar, 3 parts water. Spray the produce thoroughly with the mixture and brush or rub for about 30 seconds. Once you finish, rinse with water and they're ready to eat.
For Soaking: Fill a medium or large bowl with the mixture, and soak the produce in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Once time is up, scrub and rinse the produce with water and you’re good to go.