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How to properly clean fruit and vegetables

In Fruits and Vegetables it is never clear how deep they need to be cleaned to eat safely. When something is covered with visible dirt – like carrots, potatoes, and other things that are normally pulled out of the ground – I instinctively give them a good exfoliant before cooking with them. But if something seems to be relatively clean, like apples or berries, I'm never sure if a simple rinse is enough or if I should do more technically.

So we decided to break down what could actually be on unwashed products, how much laundry really does and how different types of products can be effectively cleaned.

Here's what could be on your products before you wash them.

Even if a product appears to be sparkling clean, it probably is not so. Philip Tierno, Ph.D., a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU Langone Medical Center, tells SELF. Just because there is no visible dirt does not mean that it is not covered in microbes and potentially harmful pathogens that it has taken on its way.

The FDA reports that around 48 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses that are contaminated with food Every year harmful pathogens, most commonly Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella as well as viruses such as Hepatitis A and Norovirus.

The good news is that there are agricultural standards to minimize the amount of pathogens that enter the product system. According to Randy Worobo, Ph.D., professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, chances are contaminated To buy products at all, usually very low. Although the likelihood of having a foodborne illness is relatively low, it is always possible, depending on what your fruits and vegetables came into contact with on your journey to you. Things such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria may be present on the product due to poor agricultural practices, but it is also possible that the product is contaminated with a human-transmitted virus such as norovirus and hepatitis A.

"There are quite a few people who deal with raw fruits and vegetables," says Tierno, "including the breeders, the pickers, the truckers – many hands that contain different types of germs, possibly pathogens."

And if you are worried about pesticides and know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) work together to first determine and set in what amount pesticide residues are safe for human consumption These rules then (if you're interested) More details can be found in this current FDA Report . When you rinse your products, some of these residues are removed, says Worobo. After washing, there may still be pesticide residues on your products, but the amount is small. Worobo adds that it is so small that it does not pose a real threat.

So, how much does the rinse really do?

The reality is that washing products with water is usually enough to remove most of the stray pathogens. By the end of the day, if you eat something with a few germs, you probably will not get sick anyway, so you will never notice the difference. If you are not immunocompromised, your body can handle a few unpleasant microbes here and there, says Worobo the consumer. Outbreaks are usually much more dependent on whether farmers use appropriate practices or not, says Vorobo. If a food is so contaminated that it makes humans sick, many pathogens are likely to be involved – far more than normal – and these pathogens are probably anchored deep in the fruit or vegetables instead of just sitting on the surface. In these cases, rinsing would not be enough to take them off and bring them to safety, says Vorobo. Therefore, health officials are cautious and advise consumers to throw away potentially contaminated food. (Worobo also recommends avoiding the purchase of items with visible bruising or cuts, as this may be a pathogen entry point to infect the products from within.)

This is how you should * do most * of your laundry wash.

For most products, it is sufficient to rinse them with water and rub them with their hands. In fact, in most cases – average fruit or vegetables that have been properly grown and handled and possibly have few surface germs – it is enough to remove 90 to 99 percent of the bacteria that are present FDA , (If something is called back because of an outburst, always follow the instructions to throw it away.)

But most importantly first: Before you do anything with your products, you must wash your hands. "Whatever bacteria is on your hands, it can easily be transferred to the prepared food unless you wash it first," said Mary Liz Wright, MS, food safety expert and Nursing and Wellness educator at Extension College of Agricultural, consumer of the University of Illinois and environmental science, tells SELF. Wash your hands with soap under warm, running water for at least 20 seconds to be on the safe side.

Worobo recommends that you wait to wash the fruit or vegetables until just before cooking you eat it. Washing products adds excess moisture and creates an environment that is more conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria, especially in fruits and vegetables that absorb a lot of water, he says. Therefore, it is generally best not to wash anything properly when you come home from the store. If you've bought something in the grocery store that's particularly dirty and you'd rather wash it before storing it, you just need to dry it thoroughly before putting it in the fridge, says Wright.

Then usually everything you need To do this, rinse your fruits and vegetables in cold, running water and rub them in well. There is no need to wash vinegar or waste money on a fancy product spray. In fact, FDA does not recommend soaps, detergents, or specialty detergents to clean products.

Even if products are made with hard outer sides or shells such as melons, pineapples and oranges. They do not seem to be washed, they should be, says Worobo. This is because "when cutting into the fruit, you could penetrate the bacteria on the surface into the pulp." Always wash skin-sized products or anything else with a peel before you start peeling so you have less chance of transmitting bacteria from the outside to the inside. The FDA recommends the use of a clean product brush (such as this ) to effectively remove potential pathogens from the skin.

You do not have to worry about washing pre-washed, ready-to-eat items. According to FDA you do not have to waste time if it says in a pack that the contents have been prewashed (or water!). Rinse them again.

These fruits and vegetables are the exception to the rinse-and-grind rule:

1. Root Vegetables

When it comes to products that are pulled directly from the ground and is usually covered with soil – such as potatoes, carrots and any other kind of root vegetables – a conditioner and a gentle rubbing in is often not enough To completely remove dirt or soil that can be a source of pesticides and additional bacteria, including pathogens, says Worobo. You can use a dishcloth or sponge to scrub it clean, but Wright says that no tool will do the job better than a vegetable bristle brush. When scrubbing the object with the brush while holding it under running water, be sure to remove any visible dirt and you're ready to go.

. 2 Berries

It is no secret that berries are extremely fragile. In most cases, I can not even get home from the grocery store without squishing some of it. In that sense, it's important to be gentle with them – just the opposite of what root vegetables should do. The easiest way to wash berries is to place them in a colander and rinse under slow running water.

You should not * soak berries * as they work like a sponge and soak up a lot of water. This has a negative effect on taste and texture. Stems should not be removed before washing (strawberries), as the berries can absorb water in other ways, Wright explains.

. 3 Leafy vegetables

With lettuce or other leafy vegetables, it can be difficult for soil to accumulate on every single leaf. A simple rinse is usually not enough to make sure all the leaves are completely clean. Instead, Worobo says it's better to fill a bowl with cold water and gently shake the leaves around it until you can not find any dirt, because this method can ensure that the entire floor is completely gone. Rinse it under running water for the last time to make sure everything you do not want to eat is flushed down the drain. And if the salad you bought was recalled due to contamination, just throw it away – washing is not enough to prevent illness.

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