Not to worry, this isn’t another organic vs conventional produce argument. We’ve already talked about how organic and conventional produce both provide an equal amount of good nutrition. However, many people still wonder if they should wash their produce. I mean, if you buy organic, you probably don’t need to wash your fruits and vegetables, right? Due to the fact that you don’t have to worry about pesticide residues. Well, that sentiment in, unfortunately, a fallacy.
The CDC reports that fruits and vegetables are responsible for almost half of food-borne illnesses, mostly leafy vegetables. However, whether this produce is organic or non-organic was not mentioned. In any case, all fruits and vegetables are grown with soil that contains bacteria with the potential to produce food-borne illness. Also, you never know what shopper or grocery store worker (nor how many) has touched that organic apple you’re about to jam in your mouth without washing their hands after using the restroom. These things are especially true when getting produce outdoors such as at a farmer’s market. So, what about pesticides? We already wrote about the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. Basically, they found that 99% of produce sampled had residues well below EPA safety levels or no detectable residues at all. In fact, over 50% of produce had no residues at all.
According to the FDA and the CDC, the main reason you should wash your produce is that food safety begins in the grocery store. These institutions suggest:
- Keeping meat and raw produce separate, even in the grocery cart and in grocery bags
- Properly refrigerate and store food that is ready to eat, such as pre-cut fruit or packaged salad
- Choose fruit and vegetables that are not damaged
- Use separate cutting boards for vegetables and meats and wash them thoroughly
But what about after you get home? What’s the best way to be sure your produce is clean and safe to eat? SciMoms has a wonderful guide that includes the following helpful tips:
- Remove outer leaves of leafy produce
- Ensure surfaces and sink are clean
- Rinse in cold, running water
- Cut off any damage
- Scrub firm produce with a tough peel like watermelon
The bottom line? Yes, you should wash your fruits and vegetables, but not for the reasons everyone thinks. There are no deadly chemicals are poisonous waxes on your produce that you must keep off to stay alive. However, whether conventional or organic, there is always a chance for mishandling or cross-contamination. So, even just plain water can go a long way to clean off bacteria that may be hanging out on your food. Even more important than this, is practice safe food practices in your cooking.