3 Myths About Washing Fruits and Veggies — and How to Do it Right

Here's what you need to know about cleaning your produce.



Photo by: Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/Getty Images

Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd/Getty Images

Fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet, but they quite literally go from farm-to-table to get to you — and who knows if that journey included a pit-stop on the grocery-store floor. So how should you wash your produce when you get it home? There are many myths swirling around — and we’re debunking the most popular ones.

Myth: Produce Spray or Soap Is the Best Way to Clean Your Fruits and Vegetables

Fact: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or commercial produce wash is not recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also doesn’t recommend washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or commercial produce wash. Soap or detergent residues can stay on produce. The FDA has not evaluated the safety of residues left from soaps and detergents if ingested.

Myth: You Need to Wash Pre-Washed Produce

Fact: Many pre-cut, bagged or packaged fruit and vegetables are pre-washed and ready to eat. This will be written on the package and you can use the contents without any further washing — the guidelines used in the packaging facilities are extremely stringent. If you do wash the produce, you actually have a greater chance of contaminating it because you'll take it into multiple spots around your kitchen — including a splashy sink.

Myth: Use Diluted Bleach to Destroy Any Germs on Fresh Produce

Fact: Bleach can destroy harmful microorganisms, but it should not be ingested! You should never wash your produce with bleach or a diluted bleach solution.

How To Wash Your Produce

The Partnership for Food Safety Education, recommends cleaning produce properly gently run under cold running water. If you do have a tough exterior to your produce, like melon or pineapple, use a clean stiff bristled brush under running water.

The CDC gives even more detail regarding washing fresh produce. They recommend cleaning fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting or cooking unless the package says the produce have been washed (like packaged triple washed baby spinach). They also recommend washing or scrubbing the produce under running water even if you won’t be eating the peel as dirt or germs on the skin can get inside the fruits and vegetables when you cut them. Also, cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. To dry fruits and vegetables, use a clean paper towel.

If you're working with something like spinach, leeks or other leafy greens which can have a lot of dirt, place the produce in a large bowl of cold water, swish it around to remove the grit, lift it out, and drain in a colander. You want to make sure you don't dump the gritty water back onto the food; try setting the colander inside the bowl so you can easily lift the leaves out. If there is still grit left on the food, then repeat the process.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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