The Best Way to Wash Your Fruits and Vegetables, According to a Food Safety Expert

Stephanie Nguyen Stephanie Nguyen is the Editor in charge of cleaning and organizing; Stephanie is a journalist, Editor, and a full-time dog walker. As Apartment Therapy’s Cleaning and Editorial Editor, she covers every way to shine in your home by utilizing decluttering techniques, cleaning tips, and organization techniques. Stephanie has diplomas in English and journalism from the Hawaii University at Manoa.

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After you return from the supermarket, when you begin sorting your purchases, do you clean your produce before putting it away? I’ve always been habitually washing, soaking, and lightly drying my fruit and vegetables before placing them in the refrigerator. Still, after seeing numerous videos on the internet that suggested that you ought to wash your produce using vinegar or even a store-bought or homemade produce wash mix, I began to think about whether I was doing my job getting rid of the dirt (and possibly bugs!) with the best method possible.

In my search for details, I contacted Michelle Smith, Ph., an analyst at the senior level in the food safety department within the FDA. With more than 25 years of experience in the business, Smith was able to provide some important insights regarding the subject. Learn more about three frequently asked questions.

What is the reason you need to wash your fruits and vegetables?

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy and nutritious diet. However, harmful bacteria in the soil or water where produce grows can come in contact with fruits and vegetables and contaminate them,” Smith says. Smith, which is why washing your produce is essential once you are home from your grocery shop.

According to Smith, bacteria may get into produce at the time of harvest, in storage, or even during cooking. In addition, because food is usually consumed raw, it isn’t subject to the essential stage of cooking, which could kill harmful bacteria. “Therefore, washing produce before feeding it to yourself or your family is important,” she states. “Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, it is still important to wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce.”

How do you wash your fruits and vegetables?

Smith explains that there’s an appropriate method to follow, which is the most secure but efficient method to wash your vegetables and fruits. Contrary to what the videos say, using products or formulas to wash your fruits and vegetables is potentially hazardous. The best method to clean your vegetables and fruits is simple: All you require is water.

“Washing fruit and vegetable surfaces thoroughly under clean running water should reduce any potential contamination from soil, residues, or microbes,” Smith explains Smith. “We do not recommend using vinegar or other store-bought washes for washing your vegetables and fruits. Consider this that produce is porous. The soaps and household cleaners could be in the stomachs of vegetables and fruits and may cause illness and that is exactly what we’re trying to avoid by washing.”

Smith states that the security of store-bought products washed with residue isn’t assessed, and the effectiveness of eliminating microbial contaminants hasn’t yet been assessed or standardized.

Smith suggests that the fruit brush is an excellent tool for washing firmer fruits like cucumbers and melons. You need to scrub and rinse the fruits under water. “After washing, you can dry your produce with a clean rag or paper towel to further reduce bacteria on the surface,” she suggests.

How can I ensure that my produce lasts longer?

If you’re looking to prolong the shelf life of your vegetables and fruits, Smith has these “wiser buying” guidelines:

Select produce that isn’t damaged or bruised.

If you buy pre-cut, packaged, or bagged food items, select products that are refrigerated or protected by frozen.

Avoid contamination of produce during processing and preparation. For example, you can place produce in a bag and separate it from poultry, meat, and fish.

Make sure to wash your hands while preparing fresh food items. This includes cleaning your hands for at least 20 seconds before or after handling.

Do not wash produce you’ve already passed. There’s some doubt that home washing could create more risk, according to Smith; therefore, adding a wash for bags labeled “pre-washed” or “triple-washed” isn’t necessary.

According to Smith, another aspect to consider is appropriate storage, which can impact the safety and quality of the food you consume. She suggests keeping perishable fruits or vegetables (such as lettuce, strawberries, or mushrooms), as well as herbs and vegetables) in a well-maintained refrigerator at temperatures of 40°F or lower. It is important to keep refrigerated any produce that is pre-cut or packed! If you’re unsure whether your items are cooled, ask your local grocery store staff for assistance.

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