Reasons why you have to wash your food/ veggies before using them

Woman washing vegetables on kitchen counter.

Everyone knows that washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them is a good idea, but how important is it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing your produce under running water will protect you from food-borne illnesses like norovirus, which is the leading cause of disease outbreaks in the United States due to contaminated food. Furthermore, rinsing your produce removes any physical soil, pebbles, insects, or other remaining debris. Produce can also pass through a lot of hands before reaching your kitchen, so a thorough rinse can remove germs from the hands of others.

Despite the presence of germs and bacteria on your food, you should not be afraid to eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have many health benefits, and a fast rinse would only benefit you. However, it may seem as if running produce under water for a few seconds does nothing, and it’s difficult to know how long to wash for maximum effectiveness.

How long should porous fruits and vegetables be washed?

Porous fruits and vegetables have small holes through which liquid or air will move. Porous fruits and vegetables include cantaloupes and strawberries, as well as green onions and bean sprouts. For 10 to 20 seconds, submerge these in cool water.

Normally, rinsing these fruits and vegetables under cool water would suffice, but since cantaloupes and strawberries are porous, they will absorb further pollutants. To thoroughly clean strawberries, run them under cold running water for as long as possible. Cantaloupes, as well as other firm produce such as melons and cucumbers, should be washed with a scrubbing brush.

How long should fruits and vegetables with peels be washed?

Watermelons and apples, for example, have smooth peels and only need to be submerged in cool water for 10 seconds. To gently wash away any potential contaminants, I suggest using your hands or a towel. And if you want to peel a fruit, such as an apple, the skin should be cleaned first. Some produce, such as most berries, should not be washed until just before eating because their quality begins to degrade when they are washed. A rinse isn’t required for produce that has the whole peel removed, such as oranges or bananas, since the tough outer peel makes it difficult for bacteria to pass through.

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