Don't overcomplicate it: how to wash produce

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

There is nothing like the ghost of a carcinogenic pesticide to take the glee out of eating a good salad. How many times I have said, “Oh well, hope that’s good enough,” as I run the cucumbers and peppers under the water, wondering how many years it’s going to take to catch up with me. As I rinse there’s always a part of my mind feeling guilty that I’m not going the extra mile with one of those produce washes. The whole thing is overwhelming. Even organic produce can be a vehicle for harmful bacteria from the soil and other pathogens hitching a ride.
But we can relax. At least about how to wash our fruits and vegetables. It’s not that complicated according to Michelle Smith, PhD., a senior policy analyst in the division of produce safety at the FDA. All you do is give them a respectable amount of rubbing time under running water, using a simple produce brush on firmer produce like melon and cucumbers. That’s it.
As for the produce washes, forget about them. “Think about it,” says Smith. “Produce is porous. Soaps and household detergents can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables and can make you sick, which is what we are trying to avoid in the first place with washing.” She also adds that the safety of these produce washes has not been evaluated or the effectiveness tested.
Smith also lets us off the hook if we are tormented by the thought that we’re slacking if we don’t wash the triple-washed greens all over again. However, she does not let us off the hook for washing watermelons or pineapples or oranges or butternut squash or any other fruit or vegetable we won’t be eating the rinds of. Peeling or cutting through the skin without washing is going to bring contaminates from the outside right down into the part you plan to eat. This is where we have to up our game and wash it anyway. Totally manageable.
Thanks Michelle Smith. A little something for the gratitude journal,