Washing Produce: How to Do it the Right Way

Eating fresh fruits, vegetables, and other products is a great way to incorporate many essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibers, and antioxidants in your healthy, daily diet.

Before the consumption of fresh produce, it is always advised to rinse them thoroughly with water. This helps remove any harmful residue from the surface.

Many people have become more conscious about the cleanliness of their fresh produce. They are encouraged to believe that only water is not enough to clean it. Hence, people are promoting harsh and abrasive ways to wash fresh produce. This raises a lot of questions in our minds.

Are there any specific methods to clean produce? Do you need a specific wash or soap to clean them? Does washing produce make them safer to eat? Don’t worry; we have found out all the answers for you.

There are many ways to clean and protect your food from unwanted microorganisms and dust particles. In this article, we have discussed all the practices of washing produce to keep it clean, fresh, and secure for consumption, as well as washing methods that are strictly prohibited.

Why Wash Fresh Produce?

Fresh produce goes through a lot of hands before coming into your grocery basket at the supermarket or the farmers market. We can honestly make a safe assumption that not every hand touching the produce is clean.

There are a large number of people who step outside their house to buy groceries every day. The chances of these people not touching, coughing, and sneezing on these produceare very high.

Global pandemic or not, the practice of washing fresh produce is very healthy and hygienic. It prevents the ingestion of germs and harmful particles. Washing all kinds of produce before consuming or storing them is a great way to remove any type of unwanted substance on the product.

Recommended Cleaning Methods

The most traditional method of washing any kind of produce is rinsing it with water. Remember to wash produce right before consumption. If you are storing the produce after washing, use a clean paper towel to dry it completely. Damp foods promote bacteria growth when stored in the fridge.

  • Pre-Cleaning Your Kitchen

Before handling the produce, clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water. FDA advises cleaning your hands for at least 20 seconds before handling food products.

Make sure all the utensils, counters, and kitchen surfaces are cleaned. After cleaning, sanitize and disinfect all the surfaces and utensils.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends using sanitizers for cutting boards and utensils, and disinfectants for surfaces, countertops, and sinks.

  • Washing Meat and Poultry

USDA advises not to wash raw meat or poultry like eggs before cooking as it can cause cross-contamination and increase the risk of foodborne illness. Meat and poultry are cleaned during processing, so it is not necessary to clean it again. Detergents and soap can contaminate the meat and eggs with other chemicals.

Foodsafety.gov says raw meat and poultry contain certain harmful germs and bacteria. Cooking meat to the right temperatures eliminates any health risk.

  • Washing Fruits and Vegetables

FDA recommends cutting off any bruised or damaged areas of the produce as the first step. After cutting, rinse the produce but before peeling or cutting. This way, the germs won’t transfer to your knife or utensils. There is no need to use soap toproduce wash, just gently rub the product under cold running water. The last step is to dry it with a paper towel.

Fruits and veggies with firm skin like apples, lemons, potatoes, and carrots can be cleaned using a brush with soft bristles. It is recommended to soak leafy greens like spinach or bokchoy in cool water to remove trapped dirt. Gentle produce like mushrooms or berries should be cleaned gently using hands.

  • Cleaning Dairy Products

Foodsafety.gov says, most packaged dairy products like milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream are processed during production, making them safe for consumption. However, fresh or raw milk can contain certain bacteria. It is best to pasteurize milk before consumption.

What Not To Use

Many people, as an extended measure, use soap, acids such as vinegar or lemon juice, or commercial cleaners like bleach to clean produce. We strongly advise against these methods as they are dangerous, can induce more damage to the produce, and causes health risks.

Ingestion of chemicals in produce washes might even be lethal, and home remedies like vinegar or lemon juice leaves additional residues on the surface of the product.

Some people also use baking soda as a cleaning agent. This method is also not effective and completely unnecessary. It leaves deposits on the produce and generates friction.

It is best to just stick with plain, cool tap water. Water is gentle and cleans the produce thoroughly.

Final Words

Washing fresh produce is an important, healthy, and hygienic habit, which must be addedto your daily routine. Keeping fresh produce clean minimizes surface germs, residues, and health risks, making it safe for consumption.

The only way you should be washing produce is through cool water, nothing else. You do not need produce wash or soaps as they are harmful and a marketing gimmick. Most packaged foods are pre-washed.

We encourage you to increase the intake of fresh produce to get the daily dose of healthy nutrients, as long as you use safe cleaning methods to wash them.