With increased consumer concerns over the safety of fresh produce, it is important to know how to prevent food-borne illness related to these types of foods. Washing fruits and vegetables is the best way to reduce your risks of food-borne illness. We hear a lot about eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to keep us healthy. Research has shown that eating lots of fresh produce reduces the risk of some cancers and other diseases. This is good news for public health. On the other hand, we also hear safety warnings about raw fruits and vegetables. News reports have linked salmonella and E. coli outbreaks with alfalfa and other sprouts. Fruits and vegetables are eaten raw, without cooking to destroy pathogens, thus there are chemical rinses and other treatments for washing raw produce, usually called fruit and vegetable washes, now being sold. They are advertised as being the best way to keep fresh fruits and vegetables safe in the home, but are these washes effective?
Fit ® washes got rid of roughly the same amount of microbes as distilled water. Both Fit ® and distilled water reduced the level of residual pesticides compared to the unwashed sample. Both ozone systems, the Ozone water purifier XT-301 and the J0-4 multi-functional Food Sterilizer, removed microbes from blueberries. However, distilled water wash was more effective than either of the ozone washes according to the research study. Because some produce washes are costly, I advise consumers to wash fresh fruits and vegetables with distilled water. Soak all produce for one to two minutes to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Distilled water has been filtered and purified to remove contaminants. You can also use very clean tap water to clean produce. To help prevent food-borne illness from striking you and your family, wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.