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We’ve all heard we should wash our produce before eating it but does it really matter? In short, yes. There are three good reasons you should start washing your fruit: dirt, microorganisms and human pathogens.

Dirt

on fruit and veggies often contain natural fertilizers like manure. Do you want to put bits of animal fecal matter into your mouth? I don’t think so. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fruit and vegetables can also be contaminated . animals and poor hygiene among the workers who handle the produce before purchase.

Microorganisms

like yeast, mold and bacteria work hard to make your fresh produce spoil (about 20 percent of all produce is lost to spoilage caused . microorganisms). Certain foods are more prone to growing yeast, mold or certain types of bacteria, but all three can give you a nasty stomach ache if eaten.

Human pathogens

like E. coli, Salmonella, hepatitis A or Listeria could live on the unwashed surface of the apple you’re about to bite into, making you gravely ill.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne infections and illness in the United States each year.

For your health, follow these steps

  • Be careful when purchasing and transporting produce to avoid bruising and nicking the flesh. Otherwise, pesticides and other harmful substances can get inside the produce.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly . running and gently rubbing under cold water.
  • Dry off excess water with a clean towel or paper towel.
  • Keep produce in the fridge after washing and cutting. The FDA recommends storing them at 40 degrees F or below.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Tossing a couple cucumbers is worth avoiding a debilitating foodborne illness.

These steps apply to all fruits and vegetables – even the ones with hard skins.

Produce like cantaloupe and potatoes have a rough surface that harbor dirt. These should be washed before cutting them to prevent bacteria spreading throughout the flesh as you cut through with a knife.

Vegetables bought in bunches

like lettuce, kale or broccoli and some fruits (including most berries and apples) should be washed right before you eat them. Their shelf life decreases after they’ve been washed and their likelihood of growing mold increases so be sure to consume quickly after rinsing.
Never soak produce in water

Soaking won’t actually wash off the grime (and just lets your produce sit longer in contaminated water) Instead, use a colander. The FDA says to rinse produce with running water and allow the water to go down the drain. They also recommend not using soaps, detergents or commercial washing products.

Know what produce to pay particular attention to

 

When you don’t wash contaminants off of your fruits and veggies, you could be exposing yourself to about 14 different pesticides a day. So rinse your produce, put your mind to ease and enjoy.

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