Developed by Jason Bolton, Alfred Bushway, Kristi Crowe, and Mahmoud El-Begearmi, University of Maine Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Cooperative Extension.
With the recent food-borne outbreaks related to produce, consumers, more than ever, have heightened concerns over the safety of fresh produce. It is important to know how to prevent food-borne illness related to these types of foods. Washing fruits and vegetables is the best way to reduce your risks for food-borne illness. In this publication we will explore the procedures for proper produce washing and handling. In addition, effectiveness of commercial fruit and vegetable cleaners will be investigated.
We hear that eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will keep us healthy. Research has shown that eating lots of fresh produce reduces the risk of some cancers and other diseases. Due to promotions such as the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s 5 A Day The Color Way campaign, people in the U.S. are encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables as a part of their normal diet. This is good for public health. On the other hand, we also hear safety warnings about raw fruits and vegetables. News reports have linked Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks with alfalfa and other sprouts. Fruits and vegetables are often eaten raw, without cooking to destroy pathogens. Thus they are potential sources of food-borne illness.
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), you should wash raw fruits and vegetables very well before you peel, cut, eat or cook with them. Washing reduces the bacteria that may be present on fresh produce.
Chemical rinses and other treatments for washing raw produce—usually called fruit and vegetable washes—are now being sold. They are often advertised as the best way to keep fresh fruits and vegetables safe in the home. But are these washes effective?
In the fruit and vegetable product industry, chlorine is commonly used to remove microbes such as bacteria and mold from produce. In the home, a water wash, either with or without the help of a produce brush, is typically used to clean fruits and vegetables. So how do water washes hold up to the new “fruit and veggie” washes?
In the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Maine, researchers tested three commercial wash treatments:
All three products were tested according to product directions. We used low-bush blueberries as the produce. A water wash was also tested, using blueberries soaked in distilled water for one to two minutes. Here are the results:
Why use distilled water? Because distilled or bottled water has been filtered and purified to remove contaminants. NOTE: You can also used very clean cold tap water to clean produce instead of distilled water.
Help prevent food-borne illness from striking you and your family. Wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
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Image Description: father and son wash vegetables for a salad