I remember an Oprah episode, which now makes me sad to say, where people were taped coming out of restrooms. Cameras were perched above a bank of sinks and people were recorded “washing their hands.” Some people washed for the proper about of time or the time it takes to sing happy birthday. Others turned on the water, placed their hands underneath and did something that, if my kids tried, would result in a second supervised trip to the sink. And of course, there were some repulsive souls who skipped the sinks altogether. Ew but expected.
I would love a similar sink-cam but I’d observe peoples fruit-washing. After all, if washing is spotty after the potty I can only imagine the state of raspberry rinsing. I answered a few questions for HGTV magazine that I thought would be good to share. If you’re like my mother and eat unwashed (conventional!) grapes while you grocery shop or like my husband who “shines” his fruit with a paper towel versus washing it-see what I’m up against? Read on…
Why is it bad to eat unwashed fruit?
For the same reason you wouldn’t run around on a farm or supermarket and lick your feet. Sorry if that sounds gross but a host of different bacteria have been found on unwashed produce not to mention animal feces. This is responsible for a good deal of food borne illness. Washing produce for 15 seconds (not the 1 second shake under water most people do) can reduce 98% of bacteria.
Does the type of fruit matter?
It doesn’t, you want to wash produce you’re going to peel with a knife as well as fruit where you eat the peel. If you cut a melon or avocado with a knife bacterial can be transferred from the skin to the inside. I also suggest washing pre-washed lettuce. Better safe than salmonella.
Does it matter if the fruits were grown organically?
I would buy organic produce whenever possible. Conventional produce retains pesticide residues even once washed. For the above reasons, organic produce still needs to be washed.
Where does the bacteria come from?
For starters, from the 20 people who may have touched that apple before you did. Bacteria can also be picked up from the soil in which fruits or veggies grow and from insects on the farm. Reuters reported tests revealed a quarter of a million microorganisms on unwashed apples in a San Diego grocery store.
What’s the best method to washing your fruit?
For most produce wash under water for 15 seconds, skip the produce washes and do not soak fruit in a basin of water (this doesn’t wash bacteria away). Fruits with ridges or rinds such as cantaloupe or squash should be cleaned using a produce brush under water as bacteria can cling to the crevices.
Would you consider this a simple manner of hygiene or a necessity? Why or why not?
Necessity, remember the E. coli outbreaks linked to spinach? It’s not worth it and children or immune compromised adults are especially vulnerable.
Any other notes on washing fruit?
Before you wash your fruit, wash your hands.
What kind of fruit washer are you? Have you thought about where your produce has been? Do you nibble as you eat in the grocery store? Be honest, as Oprah says when you know better you do better.
i now always was fruit. Although, I have to be honest, I've never washed an avocado or bananas. For some reason I've always felt that since their skin is so darn thick, they're impervious to any pesticides, etc… And, before this post, I definitely hadn't been washing the fruit for 15 seconds…..
Bananas are debatable. It's really the thick skinned fruits you cut with a knife (the knife is the bacteria spreader). However, assuming there's bacteria on the banana, once you touch it- it's on you.
Great reminder lauren! I always wash my produce but I do get lazy about washing things like watermelon or cantaloupe! I will be sending this to my husband!
I know Erin but the fruits that grow close to the ground can be really dirty.
I'm glad my husband isn't the only one eating dirty fruit.
The other day we went over to my friends house for dinner and she cut up the cantaloupe I brought without washing it first.
I also have a friend that brings unwashed grapes to the park and offers them to my kids. It gives me total anxiety.
I wish more people understood exactly what is being sprayed on produce and what is on produce from the handling and transporting. Then they might consider washing it first.
So I'm NOT supposed to lick my feet…huh. Kidding! Remember that tabloid pic of Britney Spears walking out of a public bathroom barefoot? That makes me sick to my stomach anytime I see it. Ew.
Thanks for the fruit reminder. I justify grocery store snacking by picking only organic, guess that won't work anymore. I try to be good about washing fruit and veg, but never thought about melons and avocado. Thanks for the reminder.
I am paranoid with washing the vegetables and fruits really well, but I have to admit that I have not washed avocado or banana before. Thank you, I will do that from now on.
Hmmm, I'm a soaker (usually a couple of minutes) followed by a quick rinse. No good?
I have to admit that I rarely wash my fruit before eating unless there is visible dirt on it. I do rinse my lettuce and greens though as they usually have dirt on them.
I really needed to read this because I am the kind of person who washes fruit for 1 second. This totally goes against my obsessive compulsive nature, so it's especially odd that I do this! Thank you Lauren for the tips…and how great that you were in HGTV magazine? Congratulations!
Ameena, she who shuns wire hangers doesn't scrub her fruit? I will refrain from the r word but let's change our ways. Kidding.
I'm a washer of fruits and veggies, and of my hands (I'm convinced that's one reason I rarely get sick), but I had never thought about washing melons, avocados, etc (And I eat A LOT of avocado!) Thanks for pointing out that these should be washed too! Now, if I could only convince my husband to take his shoes off when he comes in the house…
EA- so true. My husband lays down on the bed with his work clothes (post subway) on. Seems as though we all need to teach husbands some hygeine. Are we nuts or are they just less concerned?
Im so glad you wrote about this! It reminded me to wash my fruit better. I have to say Im guilty of the one second splash under the water when Im in a rush. I definently need to take more care with washing my fruits and veggies for sure
I always buy local and organic fruits and vegetables. And I am a bit of a neat freak, so washing is pretty important to me. I manually scrub holding under running water (except for berries 'cause I don't think they'd stand up to a scrubbing – they just get individually held under running water).
good points oh my I need to wash mine better
Great post! It always reminds me that I need to be better about it as well. I often forgot to wash avocados and mangos, etc.
I am horrible with washing things like avocados! I just never do since I eat the inside only eeeek! Not good huh?!?! I am very good about buying organic as well as washing fruits and veggies that I eat in entirety
It's so funny to me that the avocado/thick skinned items are the biggest surprise. I was sure most people do not wash the 15 seconds, even for fruit where you eat the whole thing.
hehe I even wash the veggies that come off my plants in my backyard… juuust in case a buggy got fresh with it =) haha!
I never think about how dirty people's hands are — good call!
It's sad but I think the work associated with washing fruit may deter people from eating it! People may find it much easier and more convenient to pop a bag of doritos or unwrap a snickers. So I guess a question could be whether eating unwashed real fruit is better than eating processed fake food?
I see what you're saying Lisa. It reminds me of the organic debate. Is it better to have conventional fruit versus candy. Sure, fruit is always a better choice but I don't buy the "washing fruit is work". I think people need to take some time to eat good food. Doritos will always win the convenience contest.
I understand washing non-organic produce for pesticides and taking extra precaution for immune-challenged individuals but what about good bacteria? There must be beneficial bacteria that also abounds on produce as it does in the world around us. I do wash my food but I also eat non-washed food and will eat things right out of the garden dirt and all. It seems that with new research suggesting that kids who live on farms have less allergic disease then some bacteria is a good thing. I am not sure where the line lies between washing away normal healthy bacteria and preventing pathogenic bacterial disease is.
Sabra, a very good point. I guess the case can be made for organic produce in your garden that some bacteria is good bacteria. When purchasing produce in markets or even Farmer's markets there is no way of knowing if bacteria is beneficial and in fact it can be dangerous. I'm familiar with the hygiene hypothesis and do not endorse anti-bacterial soaps or produce washes for this reason. I guess it's a hard line between food safety and food frenzy. With the state of our food supply and serious illness stemming from contaminated produce. I'm going with washing well and then eating yogurt (for good bacteria). Thanks for offering up your opinion.
yikes! do i dare say i never wash my fruit? maybe i need to rethink this……..
Oooh, never thought about avocados (and now having a mini-meltdown). My grandfather never allowed us to eat anything that hadn't been washed – and this man was all about organic before organic even started. And when you think about it – organic fertilizer is not something you would want to consume (gross, but true).
One thing to consider – definitely into buying organic, but keep in mind that many of your smaller, local "non-organic" farms have better/safer farming practices than the "official" organic farms that are offshoots of those giant agro-chemical companies (some of which have delivered e. coli along with their organic products). If you are at a farmer's market and know your farmer, chances are the small non-organic guy is going to give you something better than the bag of "pre-washed organic greens" in Whole Foods.
No veggie sprays? Why not? We had a doctor stay with us who highly recommended it, and I've been using it ever since. Just like your feet licking reminder packs a powerful punch, he said, "Where do you think fruit pickers pee?" Yuck!
Gotta say WASH YOUR FRUIT for at least 15 seconds People!! I not only have an Ironclad stomach but actually have a small farm with horses and chickens so even though I keep my animals clean I am exposed to small amounts of similar bacteria. It really takes a lot to get me sick and I Got SICK as a dog recently from an apple! Thought it was a fluke and then 2 weeks later got sick again from a plum!! Now I wash all fruits for at least 15 seconds TWICE! Then polish! Word to the wise is sufficient!