Healthy Cooking

Here’s What You Should and Shouldn’t Do When Washing Your Produce

Tamim Alnuweiri

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Photo: Stocksy/Suzanne Clements
As salad devotees across the country are well aware, an E. coli outbreak spawned by chopped romaine lettuce is now ravaging the country. Experts say the contamination first occurred on the farm and was exacerbated by cross contamination during the production process that prewashed bags go through. In light of this news, it's super-important to know best practices for washing your fruits and vegetables.

Only wash produce right before you eat it, since once wet, the surfaces become a moist and damp environment in which bacteria and germs thrive.

There are a few things you should decidedly not do to rid your greens of harmful germs or bacteria, according to Time. One is to avoid commercial produce cleaners: A study found that specially designed produce-washing solutions are less useful than water is for removing germs, and the FDA specifically recommends washing produce with water rather than with commercial products.

Furthermore, avoid using a brush to scrub your vegetables, since the practice will likely introduce bacteria to your food. Along those bacteria-spreading lines, make sure that your hands and kitchen surfaces are clean before you rinse your produce.

Here's what you should do to clean your produce like a pro: Wash the items only right before eating, since once wet, the surface of the fruit or vegetable becomes a moist and damp environment in which bacteria and germs thrive. To wash a fruit or vegetable with hard skin (i.e., one that you wouldn't puree), rub it with your (clean!) hands while holding it under running water, and then dry it thoroughly with a (clean!) towel.

Though diligently washing your fresh foods make them safer to eat, you might want to avoid buying romaine lettuce potentially contaminated with E. coli altogether and instead substitute it with carefully washed kale for your healthy Caesar salad.

Some say it's helpful to wash your produce with baking soda, which, when consumed with water, might actually fight inflammation.

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