We all know that fresh produce can be packed with vitamins, minerals, and flavor. But it’s easy to have questions about food safety with our fruits and vegetables. Do we really need to wash produce? And what does that even entail?
Food Safety While Shopping
Everyone has a different set of criteria for what may or may not be “healthy.” Just consider whether someone prefers a high-fat keto diet or a low-fat routine. In a sense, food safety can be pretty similar in certain situations. Some people like the “five-second rule,” and other people would rather have their steak well-done than rare. Yet there are certain precautions we can all agree on. You don’t want to eat rotten fruit, and you don’t want to pick up a random bug or a virus just from touching an apple.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, there seem to be more and more questions about how to wash produce—and whether it’s even safe. Fortunately, the CDC has said that there is currently no evidence to indicate that the spread of COVID-19 is associated with food. Of course, as with any sort of airborne illness, there can be risks associated with sick people coughing or sneezing around produce. That’s why washing our hands and rinsing produce can help us stay healthy.
Best Practices for Washing Produce
There is no reason to use cleaning agents (e.g., soap, bleach, disinfectant, isopropyl alcohol) to wash produce. Assuming you have clean, filtered water, then all you really need to do is give your fruits and vegetables a good scrub and rinse. Putting any non-food items on your produce will just make things worse.
The key to prepping your produce is to simply wash your hands with soap and water. Then you can rinse your produce under running water. As one food safety expert explains, washing produce can get rid of about 90 percent of any contamination. It’s just a matter of staying consistent. Even washing bananas or cantaloupe can make a difference. Although you won’t be eating the peel or the rind, it can still be carrying germs.
Contamination can happen at many different points. Your produce might still have dirt on it from being harvested, and it’s probably passed through many hands on its way to your kitchen. Take a minute to rinse your produce—or even to scrub your carrots and potatoes before peeling them. This can help ensure that what you want to eat will be clean and delicious.
Healthy Homes and Communities
If your home already has a reverse osmosis water filter, go ahead and use that water to rinse your veggies and fruit. That way, you’ll feel good knowing that you aren’t adding chlorine or other contaminants back onto your food. RO filters are designed to make your drinking water as clean and pure as possible, which is great for produce.
Another great way to get fresh, clean produce is to consider shopping with some of your local farmer’s market vendors. Those products don’t need to travel as far to get to your home. That means they probably wouldn’t have come into contact with as many people during their transport. Other food has to travel from where it was grown, to trucks, to a processing facility, to other trucks all the way to the grocery store. Supporting local businesses and local produce can be a win for our health—and our community as a whole!