Do I Really Need to Wash Fruits & Veggies?

posted May 28, 2014, 7:47 PM by Merrin McGregor   [ updated Jun 20, 2014, 12:41 PM ]
Vegetables Accidentally Blog: Do I really need to wash fruits and veggies?

Spend a little time in other people’s kitchens, and you will quickly see that there are many different perspectives on the how and whether to wash fresh fruits and veggies.

Which camp are you in?

A: Looks clean to me
‘I don’t rinse produce unless I can actually see dirt. I usually just give an apple a quick rub on my t-shirt before eating. Hasn’t killed me yet!’

B: Everything needs a little rinse
‘I always rinse fruits and veggies under the faucet before I eat or cook them. For something like potatoes, I use a scrub brush. I think that removes most of the pesticides and dirt.’

C: You can’t clean without products
‘I wash all my produce thoroughly — either with dish soap or vinegar. I need to pick up another bottle of ‘veggie wash’ as well. Without cleaning products, how could I be sure me fruits and veggies are safe to eat?’

The safe bet?

As in Goldilocks, when it comes to washing produce, the middle option [B] has it ‘just right.’ Follow A’s lead and you’ll be consuming an array of dust, dirt and pesticides with your produce. Be as cleanly as C and you may end up consuming some added chemicals you didn’t plan for. You definitely want to wash your produce, so you don’t ‘accidentally’ sneak more than you bargained for into dinner. But there is no need for any kind of added products: water will do just fine.

How to get them clean

Water and a little friction really will do the trick. The FDA recommends washing all of your fresh produce under running water just before you eat or cook them, but not using any soaps or cleaning products. Then dry with paper towels or a clean dish cloth.

Delicate produce [like fresh berries or lettuce]
A thorough rinse will do the trick.

Firm produce [such as apples or bell peppers]
While rinsing, use your hands to help rub off any waxy coating or pesticides.

Tough produce [such as potatoes or cantaloupes] 
Use a scrub brush while rinsing — but not the one you use on dishes — to gently remove any dirt and pesticides.

What’s the risk?

Washing certainly removes any dust or dirt, but it also reduces pesticides, as well as bacteria that could lead to food borne illnesses. So wash all of your produce — whether organically or conventionally grown, and even if you plan to remove the peel. 

Washing fruits and veggies helps to ensure that you get the most benefit and the least risk out of all the produce you slip into your healthy-but-stealthy family meals.