Investigate washing fruits with dishwashing liquid safety

Since I often get questions and feedback when I write on food safety or fruit and vegetable primers, I decided to investigate why it is not a good idea to wash your produce with dishwashing liquid. A lot of people have contacted me with queries or comments after reading my articles on topics like food safety or the fundamentals of different types of fruits and vegetables. Then, on [REDACTED], I walked in on [REDACTED] cleaning potatoes with a tiny bit of dish soap. “As a matter of fact, I am presently engaged in writing a story on this precise subject!” I let out a loud, self-righteous shout that was beyond my original intent.

Let’s be straightforward here. You could be doing more damage to yourself by washing your fruits and vegetables with soap than you are to the product itself.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension professor and food safety expert Jason Bolton adds, “It’s a tough analogy.” People would naturally ask why they may use soap to wash their dishes and hands but not their meals. One key difference is that you won’t be using your hands or plates, both of which are porous, to consume your food. All of your produce is permeable, albeit the degree of permeability will change based on the type of fruit or vegetable.

The issue is that the soap may be absorbed by your veggies or that you may not remove all of the soap residue after washing. The USDA advises that customers not use commercial produce washes, detergents, or soaps when washing fruits and vegetables. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not endorse or label foods that contain these additives. Soap and detergent residues can be absorbed by crops, posing a health risk to consumers. Because of the permeability problem, it is important to remember that you will be eating the fruit and vegetables you peel.

Soap, as Bolton sees it, often has an unnatural chemical makeup compared to what the human body needs. Soap might irritate your digestive system, which could lead to nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Furthermore, it might upset the equilibrium of the good bacteria in your digestive system.

In addition, nobody likes the taste of soap. It may alter the flavor of foods and destroy the perishable cells that make up fruits and vegetables.

Soap’s main function is not always the killing of germs on contact, but rather the washing away of dirt and debris from the skin. People prefer to scrub their hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further eliminates germs due to the friction created by lathering and scrubbing, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The same can be said for produce, though you may do a large portion of the same thing by using clean, cold running water. Produce washed under cool running water can remove up to 99 percent of harmful pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, among others, according to Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University and one of the proprietors of the food-safety themed Barfblog. (I’d like to give a shout out to HuffPost for their coverage of this story last year.) This finding, as stated by Chapman, is backed by “a substantial body of work on produce washing,” which analyzed several fruits and vegetables in addition to numerous viruses. To paraphrase what he says, “the bottom line from the research is that rinsing fruit is doing something, washing with soap is really not doing anything more,” and can actually raise danger because detergent residue is not intended to be ingested and has contributed to toxicity/nausea in certain situations. “The literature concludes that using soap is not more effective than using water alone.”

Three additional typical components in industrial kitchens were demonstrated to be less efficient than distilled water at eliminating bacteria and chemicals. Bolton and his team made this finding throughout their research. They stress the need of paying attention to the water’s temperature when drinking clean water from the faucet. Bolton warns that it might be problematic to use water that is either too hot or too cold, since this can cause the produce to absorb the bacteria that you are trying to wash away. (Although cooking kills most bacteria and viruses, you should still wash your produce before eating it.)

To further reduce the quantity of dirt, germs, and pesticides on the food, a clean produce brush should be used on solid fruit or produce with a thick rind (such as cucumbers, apples, melons, root vegetables, and citrus). The brush should be cleansed and disinfected often, as suggested by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. Put it in the dishwasher or soak it for 20 seconds in hot water for a thorough cleaning. Cornell Cooperative Extension recommends hand washing more delicate veggies. Vegetables should also be patted dry with a clean paper towel or dish towel, which is a crucial step in the process of eliminating contaminants from food.

To clean herbs, just swish them around in a bowl of cold water or rinse them under running water. After removing the leaves from the head of lettuce (you may compost the outer leaves), place the leaves in a separate bowl filled with cool water for a few minutes to rinse. Next, give the leaves a good washing. Greens and herbs can be dried using a salad spinner or a towel.

Prewashed, pre-bagged greens that are labeled as “ready to eat” don’t require any additional preparation before being consumed. If you ask Chapman, doing so might make the risk of contamination even greater. The Extension Service at Colorado State University has a webpage with a useful guide on washing vegetables that is divided up into categories by type.

The message is simple: “Don’t give up water!” The takeaway is simple, but Bolton and his coworkers are already updating their instruction leaflet and film about cleaning fruits and vegetables.

Federal health specialists estimate that annually 48 million individuals become sick from consuming food contaminated with harmful germs. You might be surprised to learn some of the underlying causes for this.

Vegetables can be a cause of foodborne disease, even though most people are aware that animal products, which come from animals, need to be handled carefully to prevent sickness. Several significant illness outbreaks in recent years in the United States have been traced back to tainted produce. Foods including spinach, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and lettuce have been related to these disorders.

Fresh veggies may be contaminated in a variety of ways, according to Glenda Lewis, a Food and Drug Administration expert on foodborne diseases. During the growing season, produce is more vulnerable to contamination from animals, potentially harmful substances in the soil or water, and unhygienic workers. Due to the numerous hands that touch food after it has been gathered, spoilage is a real concern. There is always the chance of contamination, even after the product has been purchased, if safe handling procedures are not followed.

The Food and Drug Administration advises shoppers to choose unblemished fruits and vegetables whenever feasible and to keep pre-cut goods, such as packs of lettuce or watermelon slices, cold or on ice at all times. Also, consider the following suggestions:

Wash your hands for twenty seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling fresh vegetables.

It’s important to cut off any bruised or smashed sections of food before cooking or eating them.

Fruits and vegetables should be washed BEFORE being peeled to avoid any dirt or bacteria from sticking to the knife.

Under running water, rub the veggies with your hands. Soap or a produce wash is not required before eating the meal.

Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub hard vegetables such as cucumbers and melons. Melons are one type of such food item.

Reduce the potential for bacterial growth even further by drying the veggies with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Simply remove the outer leaves from a head of lettuce or cabbage.

Customers should refrigerate perishable veggies at 40 degrees or less, as recommended by Lewis.

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