Post written by Tiana Yom, MPH, CHES
In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables — including spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce. As fresh produce can be contaminated in various ways, the FDA recommends to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items — such as bags of lettuce and watermelon slices — are either refrigerated or on ice in the store and at home.
Here are 8 tips to follow when washing fruits and vegetables:
- 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. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- 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 and cucumbers.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
- Store perishable produce in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below.
Most fresh fruit and vegetables have a natural protective coating, so it is best to wash them just before you are ready to eat or cook them, otherwise they may spoil at a faster rate. For more information, visit the FDA Consumer Update Food page.