Is It Safe to Eat Unwashed Apples While Apple Picking?
You'll want to read this before your next trip to the orchard.
The weather is cooling down, which means an abundance of hearty local produce available throughout the country. Apples are at the top of the list, with many farms offering apple picking and other fun seasonal activities to celebrate the fall harvest. If you’ve never been on an apple orchard trip, the way it usually works is you pay a set price for a bag that you’re able to fill as you venture through the farm exploring different apple varieties. It can be tempting to grab fruit right off the tree and start tasting to see if you want more of that variety, but is that a safe thing to do?
The short answer is no for a number of reasons. Unwashed fruit can have a significant amount of pesticide residue and potentially harmful bacteria. Research has shown that foodborne causing microorganism Listeria Monocytogenes is most prevalent at the stem and base of the apple. There is also the possibility that bird feces fell on the fruit, and sometimes it’s not visible to the human eye. For this reason, many farms technically don’t allow you to eat fruit onsite and recommend you take the apples home and wash them properly.
Since apple picking is a popular activity usually done in groups, it’s also a possibility that other hands have touched that same fruit you’re about to pick, further increasing your risk for contamination. Another thing to consider is that your hands should be properly washed before eating, which is a challenge when you’re out picking apples on a farm.
With that being said, the good news is that washing apples is relatively easy! Once you get home, wash your hands properly under running water using antibacterial soap. Dry those hands and run the apples you’re ready to enjoy under running water to remove any dirt, bacteria or bird feces. If there’s a lot of buildup, you can use a brush. Dry your fruit and enjoy! There’s no need to use soaps or cleaning solutions.
Keep in mind that with the state of the pandemic, you’ll want to reach out to your local orchard first before visiting. Many farms are accepting visits by appointment only.
As a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDCES is passionate about accessible and culturally relevant nutrition education. She is the co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast, and the co-founder of Food Heaven, an online platform that provides resources on cooking, intuitive eating, wellness and inclusion. When not working on creative projects, Wendy also provides nutritional counseling and medication management to patients with diabetes.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.