Should you wash your fruit and veg?

By Kelly Jirsa

Should you wash your fruit and veg?

There are numerous nutritional and health benefits to eating raw fruit and some vegetables.

In the last three years alone cases of foodborne disease in Australia, Germany and the US has highlighted the importance of safety when preparing fresh fruit and vegetables for quick consumption.

Australia is considered “one of the safest food suppliers in the world”, according to Senaka Ranadheera at the College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University, however even under controlled food safe environments disease-causing bugs can slip through the cleansing processes.

For the most part, ingesting a small number of foodborne bugs is not harmful; our immune system is designed to combat these. But how can we ensure that those that cause serious illness, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (strains of E.coli) aren’t taking a ride into our bodies on the fresh fruit and veg we eat?

Why wash?

“The washing of fruits and vegetables is one of the most important processing steps at the industrial level. Washing is designed to remove dirt and dust and some pesticides, and to detach bugs. Washing improves not only the safety and quality, but also the product’s shelf-life.”

Senaka Ranadheera, College of Health and Biomedicine at Victoria University.

Washing your fruit and veg with water alone may help dislodge any bugs clinging to the surface, but also brings up concerns for potential cross contamination. Even so, evidence suggests that rinsing industrially pre-washed products at home, with clean running water, does reduce the level of E. coli bacteria, specifically when it comes to broccoli and lettuce.

Washing and preparation tips

  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before preparing fresh fruit and veg.
  • A solution of 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar can be used to remove pathogens (foodborne bugs).
  • Rinse in running water, products sitting in water may cause cross-contamination of bugs.
  • Wash and peel if in serious doubt.

Experts still suggest that to be safe you should always “pay regular attention to the media for any outbreaks or updates related to fresh produce safety.”



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