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How to clean fresh produce:

Posted by on Feb. 12, 2013 at 7:26 PM
  • 27 Replies

I saw something about this on another group, so I googled, and found the following at

 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742


"So the magazine did some comparative testing, by cleaning apples and pears in four different ways. They washed one batch with an antibacterial soap. (That, by the way, is not recommended by food safety experts — nobody thinks swallowing soap is a good idea.)

They washed other pieces of fruit with a solution of diluted vinegar (one part vinegar to three parts water), rinsing afterward with pure water. They scrubbed the third group with a brush, and simply rinsed the fourth group with clean water.

To measure how well each technique worked, they sampled the outside of the fruit with sterile cotton swabs, then rubbed the little bits of grime onto Petri dishes.

Jack Bishop says they next let the Petri dishes sit at 80 degrees for several days to see what bacteria grew. Then they counted how many bacterial colonies were present.

It turns out the scrub brush removed 85 percent of the bacteria — a little more than the water alone.

But the cleaning method that worked the best was the dilute vinegar rinse. It removed 98 percent of the bacteria.

Cleaning with Vinegar

"I've got a spray bottle filled with three cups of water and one cup of white vinegar," Bishop says. "It's in a spray bottle — the kind you'd mist your plants with."

Bishop sprays each apple with about six squirts of the solution — just enough to coat the surface — and then rinses it under the tap.

"The cold water will wash the residual flavor from the vinegar, and finishes the cleaning process," Bishop says. "So it's a 30-second, 50-cent investment."

The technique works best for smooth skinned fruits and vegetables. When you get to broccoli, lettuce leaves, or spinach, produce is harder to clean — as we've learned from recent nationwide recalls. Bishop's team found that soaking lettuce in the vinegar solution works well, but it's a little more labor intensive than spraying apples.

"You're going to have to separate out the leaves. You can't do a whole head. And that may be where it gets to be impractical, because you need a big enough bowl to be three parts water and one part vinegar," says Bishop.

The folks at Cook's Illustrated are not the first to document the effectiveness of acidic washes. Researchers at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tennessee State University tested dilute vinegar against plain water and a commercial product called Veggie Wash that they purchased at a grocery store.

"We really did not really find the veggie washes effective or necessary," says Sandria Godwin, who oversaw the project.

Godwin says they do get rid of most bacteria, but her team of researchers found that water works just as well. They found that water can remove 98 percent of bacteria when it's used to rinse and soak produce.

For vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower that have lots of crevices, Godwin recommends a two-minute soak, even though this contradicts the advice of government food-safety experts who are concerned about cross-contamination of bacteria.

"They're not recommending the soaking of foods because that puts bacteria in the sink itself," explains Godwin. "We still think you should go ahead and do the soak, and wash your sink when you get through!"

For people who aren't willing to go to all this trouble — what about that old technique of rubbing or polishing a piece of fruit on your clothes to get off the grime? There's not much research, but Godwin did have one student look into it a little bit.

"We lined people up in here and had them blow on their apple and rub it on their shirt or lab coats to see if that's effective," Godwin says. "And surprisingly it did something; it's better than nothing. But it really depends on how clean the shirt is."  "

by on Feb. 12, 2013 at 7:26 PM
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Replies (1-10):
suzeebloch
by Ronna on Feb. 12, 2013 at 7:51 PM

I'm not a germophobe.  I rinse my veggies with plain old water.  I do use the antibacterial hand sanitizer when I've got a cold, especially after I blow my nose.  I don't want to give my germs to someone else.  But as far as santizing fruits and vegetables?  pfffft.  plain old tap water from the faucet has been good 'nuff all these years.

Bmat
by Barb on Feb. 12, 2013 at 7:58 PM

This is what I am thinking, too.  I rinse well- something such as strawberries I rinse under running water. Things like lettuce I rinse under running water leaf by leaf and then rinse again in a bowl of water. Broccoli in a bowl of water. I also rinse mushrooms under running water, which I understand you aren't supposed to, but Alton Brown had a program where he measured the amount of water that mushrooms soaked up, and there was none. So I rinse them.

Quoting suzeebloch:

I'm not a germophobe.  I rinse my veggies with plain old water.  I do use the antibacterial hand sanitizer when I've got a cold, especially after I blow my nose.  I don't want to give my germs to someone else.  But as far as santizing fruits and vegetables?  pfffft.  plain old tap water from the faucet has been good 'nuff all these years.


EireLass
by Gold Member on Feb. 12, 2013 at 10:57 PM

I don't wash any produce. I never have. I don't get sick.

specialwingz
by Bronze Member on Feb. 12, 2013 at 11:02 PM

This just creeps me out!  I can't even begin to imagine just how many people have touched the produce before me.  Who knows WHAT is on their hands!  I've seen parents clean their kids' noses and then start picking through produce.  EW! Just EW EW EW!!!!

Quoting EireLass:

I don't wash any produce. I never have. I don't get sick.


Bmat
by Barb on Feb. 12, 2013 at 11:12 PM

I guess I am aware of germs on produce partly because I used to have a big garden- there were always dirt, worms, bugs, bird droppings, that needed to be washed off. I didn't use many pesticides, but these are also on commercial produce. Produce in stores is gathered by machinery that is dirty, stored on dirty floors (I've seen this), people may cough on it, and so forth. However since it hasn't made you sick, it sounds as though what you are doing is right for you. :)

Quoting EireLass:

I don't wash any produce. I never have. I don't get sick.


homeskoolmama
by on Feb. 12, 2013 at 11:34 PM

It depends on what it is and where I got it from as to how I clean it.

Bmat
by Barb on Feb. 12, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Do you use just water or something in addition?  I may try the vinegar and water wash.

Quoting homeskoolmama:

It depends on what it is and where I got it from as to how I clean it.


homeskoolmama
by on Feb. 12, 2013 at 11:50 PM

I use vinegar but have used 1/2 vinegar and hydrogen peroxide

Quoting Bmat:

Do you use just water or something in addition?  I may try the vinegar and water wash.

Quoting homeskoolmama:

It depends on what it is and where I got it from as to how I clean it.



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by on Feb. 13, 2013 at 12:08 AM

That is interesting,
I just use water though ::blush::
Thanks for sharing ;)

Why123
by Nancy on Feb. 13, 2013 at 8:37 AM

I usually just use water and rub them good.  My mom used the vinegar when there was a big E coli scare.  Since my brother has had a transplant he has no immune system and my mom wasn't taking any chances.

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