Germ patrol

applesinpailHave you noticed all the ‘green’ fruit and vegetable washes in the produce department lately? It seems that many companies are hoping to capitalize on our fears about H1N1 and food contamination.

But do we really need to buy these products?

I asked members of the Ontario Home Economics Association for their take on this matter and I got a range of responses. Despite the fact that each respondent used different words, none of them recommended using fruit and vegetable washes.

“The Canadian Produce Marketing Agency (CPMA) website  recommends washing with water,” pointed out Mary Carver. “I have received some consumer comments (complaints) that produce can have  a soapy flavour after using a vegetable wash.”

Here’s the official word from Health Canada on washing and preparing veggies safely:

• Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under fresh, cool, running water, even if you plan to peel them. This helps prevent the spread of any bacteria that may be present. (This is a general safety tip that may not always apply. For example, you do not need to wash a banana before peeling it.
• Use a clean produce brush to scrub items that have firm surfaces (e.g., oranges, melons, potatoes, carrots, etc.). It is not necessary to use produce cleansers to wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Ready-to-eat, bagged, pre-washed leafy greens do not need to be washed again before eating. However, pre-cut or pre-washed leafy greens sold in open bags or containers should be washed before eating.
• Place peeled or cut fruits and vegetables on/into a separate clean plate or container to prevent them from becoming cross-contaminated.
• Refrigerate fresh fruits and vegetables within two hours of peeling or cutting them. Discard any cut fruits and vegetables that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.

What’s your personal take on washing produce? Do you buy vegetable and fruit washes? Or, are you like one woman I know who scrubs every carrot and apple she can with a stiff bristled brush?


17 Responses to Germ patrol

  1. Good information, Dana. I think the washes are a waste of money and manufacturing resources. BTW, have you recovered from the beer judging?

  2. Daniel says:

    I simply use warm soapy water and a scratchy sponge and scrub all of our produce. Also, here in the states grocers will often coat some types of produce with a thin layer of oil or wax to help prevent bruising or scraping of produce during shipping. I find that warm water and soap works better than cold water for removing that.

    Finally, I totally agree that buying special “washes” is a waste of money.

    Casual Kitchen

  3. I buy as much as I can from the Farmers’ Market so I need to wash the dirt off, but I use tepid water and maybe a soft bristled brush.

    Gotta say, if I’m peeling carrots, apples or potatoes, I don’t wash them first — unless they’re really dirty.

  4. Rosa says:

    Great tips!



  5. Terry says:

    I’m with Charmian on this one. We also buy a lot from market when possible and so getting the dirt off is necessary, but I’m not apt to rinse before peeling either. If it’s from our own garden, I’ve been known to brush the dirt off with my hand and chow down (I know).

  6. Sharon Haslam says:

    Ohh-ohh, It’s been a couple of days since I thought of a fruit or vegetable–too many tiny chocolate bars and mini bags of chips and Doritos to concentrate on!! But when I do go back to eating properly I’ll continue to rinse veggies and fruit under cold water and wipe dry with a paper towel–I find when wet they tend to slip around on the cutting board more and a good wipe with towelling just makes them all the cleaner! The only thing I do rinse and kind of scrub before I peel is potatoes–just a habit I got into.

  7. adrian says:

    Great to see some common sense, during this H1N1 hysteria. And I wash fruit and veg with a 1:3 white vinegar:water mix, in a spray bottle. Cooks Illustrated told me to do it.

  8. Great tips, Dana! And thanks to all for sharing their helpful comments.

  9. Barb says:

    I find cool running water to be sufficient.

  10. Cheryl says:

    Yeah, cold water, paper towel, eat. Do people really think they’re going to get swine flu from their produce? Wow. I have about a million things to worry about in my daily life, but that’s definitely not one of them.

    • danamccauley says:

      Right now I think people think they can get H1N1 from anything. I am being more conscious of washing my hands every time I come in to the house from being out and about and I’m definitely not going to any buffets where you have to handle the same utensils as 1000 strangers.

      It’s interesting though. This fruit and veg washing question pops up a lot I find whether we’re in pandemic mode or not.

  11. Bob says:

    Back a few years ago there was a product called “Fit” on the market. If you read th ingredients the main one was ciitric acid – yep, good old lemon juice!

  12. I always welcome positive change in my life style carried through technology or science but not in all cases, fresh water has no substitute to wash the fruits cleanly and to keep their taste; original.

  13. Maria Joe says:

    Well nice observation i appreciate the effort you make to aware all of us. Washing fruit and vegetable is commendatory in my point of view as many germs are attached with fruits and vegetables. So, that is also one reason for washing them but in your opinion vitamins waste during the washing process that is also worthwhile mean while.

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