Getting By

With the encouragement of eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, there comes the food safety concerns, especially when they are eaten raw. The Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends washing raw fruits and vegetables before you peel, cut, eat or cook with them. This reduces the bacteria that may be present on the fresh produce and is the best way to reduce the risks for food-borne illnesses/food poisoning.

Here are some recommended ways to wash fresh produce for safe consumption and retained quality:

1. Start by washing your hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing food.

2. Throw away outer leaves of leafy vegetables like lettuces and cabbage before washing.

3. Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before peeling, cutting or eating. The water temperature should be 10 degrees warmer than the temperature of any produce being washed to prevent thermal shock and absorption of water and bacteria to the inside cells.

4. Be sure to clean counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water after peeling and before cutting and chopping. Bacteria from the outside of raw products can easily be transferred to the inside.

5. Do not wash produce with soaps or detergents.

6. Scrubbing with a clean brush is only recommended for produce with a tough rind or peel (ie carrots, potatoes, cucumbers and squash.)

7. After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.

8. Fresh produce that is labelled pre-washed and/or ready-to-eat can be eaten without further washing.

9. The best way to wash fresh leafy greens is by separating leaves and soaking them in a bowl of cool water for a few minutes. Drain the greens using a strainer or colander and repeat the process. Drain the leafy greens with a clean strainer or colander, then dry with a clean towel or salad spinner. The salad spinner should be thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water after every use.

10. Soaking produce or storing it in standing water is not recommended. Fragile produce such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc can be washed using a sink sprayer or by placing them in a colander and gently turning the fruit as the water runs over it.

11. For eating on the run, use a spray bottle with distilled water to wash the produce.

Sprays or solutions available to clean produce do remove dirt, but do not remove unwanted bacteria. For the average consumer, research has shown that washing produce with tap water is just as effective as washing produce with any produce wash solutions that are on the market.

To learn more, contact Janell at the Chouteau County Extension Office at 622-3036, or in the Chouteau County Courthouse at 1308 Franklin St in Fort Benton with any questions or for more information.

Montana State University, US Department of Agriculture and Montana Counties Cooperating. MSU Extension is an equal opportunity/affirmative action provider of educational outreach