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How to Effectively Wash Produce

Washing produce before storing may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage, so it is recommended to wait until just before using.

TEXARKANA, Ark. –

It’s the time of year when farmers markets are bustling with consumers. While still practicing social distancing, and COVID19 safety protocols, you can now visit the market to get farm fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, jams, jellies, and baked goods.

One big advantage of shopping at the farmers market is that you are buying local. This reduces transport time and distance which can help limit the chances of contamination and bacterial growth. Plus buying local lets you get to know the grower and ask questions.

It is important to remember to wait to wash your produce. Washing produce before storing may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage, so it is often recommended to wait and wash fruits and vegetables until just before use. Generally, soil has been removed from fresh produce but if not and you choose to wash before storing, dry thoroughly with clean paper towels.

Well intended friends or family members may have advised that you wash your produce with a produce wash, vinegar, bleach, or any other combination of cleaners to reduce your chances of COVID19. This simply is not correct. Washing your fruits and vegetables as you always have should be effective in removing any harmful bacteria or germs.

Before eating or preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, wash the produce under cold running tap water to remove any stuck-on dirt. This will reduce bacteria that may be present. On produce with firm surfaces, such as on apples, cantaloupes or potatoes, you can scrub with a vegetable brush.

For the average consumer, research has shown that washing produce with tap water is just as effective as washing it with any produce wash solutions that are on the market. Also, there is currently no evidence that vinegar or vinegar solutions are effective in killing the COVID-19 virus. Washing produce in vinegar may also negatively change the texture and taste of your produce. Wash your produce under running water as recommended by the FDA. 

Washing fruits and vegetables not only helps remove dirt, bacteria, and stubborn garden pests, but it also helps remove residual pesticides.

Under running water, rub fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. If immersing in water for a short time, a clean bowl is a better choice than the sink because the drain area often harbors microorganisms.

Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent or bleach solutions. Many types of fresh produce are porous and could absorb these chemicals, changing their safety and taste.

Fruit and vegetable washes are often advertised as the best way to keep fresh fruits and vegetables safe in the home. But these washes are not recommended by the FDA. The safety of their residues has not been evaluated and their effectiveness has not been tested or standardized.

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We’re online at cdue@uaex.edu, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609
cdue@uaex.edu

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