Wash Fruits and Vegetables - Why and How
Fresh produce has a natural protective coating that keeps in moisture and freshness. Whether produce comes from your garden or from the store, it should always be washed just before serving. Washing before storing produce will cause it to spoil faster.
Why does some produce, such as apples and cucumbers, arrive at the store with a wax coating? Waxes are applied to help retain moisture, which keeps the produce firm and crisp. Since the U.S. government regulates waxes for safety, they are not harmful if eaten. Waxes cannot be removed by washing. If you prefer not to consume waxes, purchase unwaxed items or peel the produce before serving.
What about pesticide residues? Recent government data shows that almost all fresh fruits and vegetables have either no pesticide residue or residues below established tolerance levels.
Here's how to wash fresh produce:
1. Before working with any foods, hands should be washed with soap and water. Also, make sure preparation areas are sanitary.
2. Under clean, running water, rub fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms.
3. Wash produce just before serving - not before storing, as washing will cause produce to spoil faster.
4. Produce with a firm skin or hard rind like carrots, potatoes, melons or squash may be scrubbed with a vegetable brush and water.
5. Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage before washing.
6. Always wash squash and melons, even if you don't eat the rind or skin because when cut, dirt or bacteria that is on the outer surface can be transferred to the inner flesh.
7. DO NOT wash produce with detergent or bleach solutions. Fruits and vegetables are porous and can absorb the detergent or bleach, which is not intended for use on foods and consuming them on fruits and vegetables have the potential to make you sick.
Commercial produce sprays or washes are available in some supermarkets. These are currently being studied and in some cases may help remove some soil, surface microbes and pesticides. Extension, USDA, or FDA does not recommend these sprays or washes. No washing method completely removes or kills all microbes, which may be present on the produce. Washing produce with tap water is usually adequate. Users of commercial produce washes are advised to consider the cost of the product versus the potential benefit