8 Tips for Washing Fruits & Vegetables

September 10, 2014

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:

  1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  2. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  3. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
  4. Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  5. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  6. Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  7. Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
  8. 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.

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