Your mother was right: it really is important to wash your produce. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to food safety – especially now.
There’s currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, but there is still a chance you could get sick if someone coughed or sneezed on your apples. Coronavirus aside, many foodborne illnesses have been linked in the past to fruits and vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers and melons.
Don’t just give produce a cursory rinse…carefully clean your fruits and vegetables using the following steps.
- Only wash when you’re ready to use. It’s best to wash produce right before you use it because dampness encourages bacterial growth and therefore spoilage.
- Keep your hands clean. The FDA recommends washing your hands with warm soap and water before and after preparing fresh produce to prevent the transference of germs.
- Rinse, then peel. Wash the fruit or vegetable before you peel it so bacteria isn’t transferred from the knife into the center of the food.
- Wash with water. There’s no need to purchase any special cleaning products to wash your foods with. Gently scrub or rub the produce under the faucet to remove any lingering dirt, germs, and debris.
- Use a clean cloth. Use a new towel or rag to dry off the food before you eat it.
Here are some more tips for washing specific types of produce:
- Mushrooms: Avoid soaking or rinsing mushrooms under large amounts of water; these plants are so porous that it may cause them to bloat and lose their flavor. Instead, wipe down each mushroom individually with a damp paper towel. If you’re on a tight schedule, lightly rinse the mushrooms, then allow them to dry out again.
- Berries: You must wait to wash berries until just before you eat them, and that you only wash what you can eat. Place the berries in a colander and rinse them under a hose nozzle.
- Leafy greens and herbs: A water bath will do wonders for your greens. Remove the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage, then lower them into a large basin of cold water for a five-minute soak. When all the debris have collected at the bottom of the bowl, lift the greens out and pat them dry with a paper towel. This method works well for herbs, too.
- Peppers: Before coring and/or cutting the pepper, wash it under cold running water. If the pepper has been waxed, you should also scrub it gently but thoroughly with a natural bristle brush.