All fresh produce, whether bought in the grocery store, the farmers' market, or picked from your garden, should be washed thoroughly before eating. Harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows may come in contact with the fruits and vegetables and contaminate them. Fresh produce may become contaminated during or after it is harvested, such as during preparation or storage. This applies whether the produce was organically-grown or grown using conventional methods.
Additional tips to ensure clean produce:
- Clean vegetable bins in your refrigerator frequently. Moisture in the bottom of the bins, as well as moldy or slimy items can encourage bacterial growth.
- Thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating them.
- Don’t use soaps, detergents or bleach solutions.
- Before handling produce wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, and clean all work surfaces, cutting boards, and knives.
- Scrub tougher-skinned produce such as potatoes, carrots, melons, and citrus fruits, with vegetable brush under running water to remove all dirt and bacteria. Any bacteria on the outside of the produce can be transferred to the inside when the fruit is peeled or cut.
- When washing leafy greens, first place the greens in the sink with enough water to make the greens float. Agitate the greens so that the majority of the sand and soil fall to the bottom of the sink. Drain water, and then wash each leaf under cool, running water to remove any remaining dirt and contaminants.
- Do not store bruised or damaged items. Use immediately by cutting away damaged or bruised areas. Bacteria can thrive in these places.
- Prewashed produce can be washed again as an extra measure but only just before using.
- Drying produce with a paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.