Confusion about what, when, and how to properly wash fruit is unfortunately common.
What will you be protecting yourself from when you wash your fruit — or don’t wash your fruit — before eating?
Detective Foodsafe® talks to many consumers and professionals who aren’t always washing the fruit they eat and putting themselves and customers at risk.
Foodborne illnesses from unwashed fruit can lead to sickness and even death. Microbial contamination associated with fruit includes Cyclospora cayetanensis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Hepatitis A, Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, Salmonella, and Shigella.
Prevention is as easy as washing your fruit before you eat!
Detective Foodsafe warns us that foodborne illness from unclean produce is serious. It costs the country $152 billion in healthcare and workplace losses according to Produce Safety Project findings with $39 billion directly related to produce.
But foodborne illness isn’t the only consideration for cleaning produce. Will it help reduce residue from pesticides used on our produce?
Let’s review the why’s and how’s of cleaning our fruit.
Dangers of Dirt and Bacteria on Our Fruit
Bacteria living in dirt and other contaminants can cling to the fruit you buy in the supermarket or farmer’s market.
Fruit can be contaminated in the fields by water, dirt, animals, or even the humans who harvest it. Food handling and storage after harvest can further contaminate fresh fruit.
To remove the bacteria, washing is required even if you peel the fruit and toss the peelings.
Cutting through unwashed fruits can spread the bacteria to the inside flesh that you will eat and serve to others.
Detective Foodsafe wants us to wash the dirt and bacteria off our fruit to prevent illness and practice food safety for our health.
Cleaning Off Pesticides
Many people fear chemicals in their food. The reality is that almost no food is 100% pesticide-free.
Organic and non-organic growing methods use pesticides to grow disease resistant, high yield crops.
According to Popular Science, washing fresh fruit with a scrubber under running water will remove a little of the pesticides on the skin. If there is wax on the skin, removing pesticide probably won’t occur.
Commercial produce washes haven’t shown to remove any more pesticides than water alone and are thought to be a waste of your budget.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that using baking soda and water can remove even more pesticide than water alone. Unfortunately, it will take as long as eight minutes to soak fruit with wax, such as apples, to reduce the pesticide residue on the surface. To remove the maximum amount, it will take about 12-15 minutes. There is, however, no guarantee as baking soda works on specific types of pesticides which may not be what the skin of your fruit has on it.
Researchers from the Department of Food Science and Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2017 validated the findings that baking soda can reduce surface pesticides.
Popular Science states that if you use soap to wash your fruit, beware, some soap can seep into the fruit too.
Organic fruit can still contain pesticides, and even the more natural pesticides used in organic gardening aren’t guaranteed to be washed off, but this farming method is supposed to use different types of pesticides that are considered less toxic.
The Journal of Toxicology found that even in produce where the highest levels of pesticides were found, the amount is still below the Environmental Protection Agency’s safe level.
Washing fruit (and all produce) will help us further lower the amount of pesticides found on the skin, if not that which seeped into the flesh.
It won’t hurt to use baking soda and may just help. If fear of pesticides gets you to wash the fruit, then this will also help reduce your risk of foodborne illness.
Detective Foodsafe Helps You Clean Fruit
In order to prevent pathogens on our fruit from making us and our families sick, Detective Foodsafe urges you to rinse all fruit under water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
Washes and homemade mixes are not any more effective than simply using water.
The Food and Drug Administration offers these tips:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water.
- Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons.
Washing all vegetables, too, is important for the same reasons according to Detective Foodsafe.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~~ Benjamin Franklin