The Truth About Produce Wash
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With the recent food recalls related to produce, consumers have heightened concerns over the safety of fresh produce. Chemical rinses and other treatments for washing produce, usually called fruit and vegetable washes, are often advertised as the best way to keep fresh produce safe in the home. They claim to be more effective than water for removing pesticides and bacteria. But do these washes really work?

It turns out that they aren’t any better than water. Multiple studies have found that produce washes such as Fit and Earth Friendly are no more effective in cleaning produce than regular tap water. In a study of three commercial washes, University of Maine researchers found that distilled water was equally if not more effective in removing microbes such as bacteria and mold. Since produce washes are costly, they advise consumers to simply wash fresh fruits and vegetables with water instead of wasting their money on unnecessary washes. [1]

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also advises against using commercial produce washes because the safety of their residues has not been evaluated and their effectiveness has not been tested or standardized.[2] The FDA also recommends washing produce in cold tap water.

It is important to know how to get your produce as clean as you can once you get it home. Here are some easy tips for making sure your produce is safe and healthy for your family.

What are the best ways to clean fresh produce?

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after preparing food.
  • Do not wash produce with soaps, washes, or detergents.
  • Use clean, cold tap water to wash produce.
  • For produce with thick skin, use a vegetable brush to help wash away hard-to-remove microbes.
  • Produce with lots of nooks and crannies such as broccoli and lettuce should be soaked for 1 to 2 minutes in cold, clean water.

It is essential to note that washing produce only removes the dirt, microbes and pesticides on the surface, not microbes that can survive cold water or pesticides that have leached into the produce while it was growing.

The only way to be sure that your produce is not grown with toxic, synthetic pesticides is to buy certified organic produce. Organic produce can be more expensive than conventionally-grown produce, but you can buy organic and still stick to your budget. One way is to prioritize your spending by concentrating on organic versions of the foods your family eats the most often to minimize your exposure to toxic pesticides.

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[1] http://umaine.edu/publications/4336e/

[2] http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/transparency/basics/ucm194327.htm

 

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