Nutrition Corner: Wash your vegetables thoroughly before consuming

August 3rd, 2016 10:43 am

The farmers markets are open and the gardens are starting to produce fresh vegetables. Whether from the farmers market or your backyard, fruits and vegetable both need to be washed thoroughly before eating.

I am always interested in reading about the difference between using produce washes and using just clean, drinkable water to wash fresh fruits and vegetables. I see the produce wash products advertised and wonder, “Are they really necessary?” The following is a summary based on the comments from a recent FDA seminar. Note: the FDA does not recommend the use of produce washes by consumers in the home.

Products are compared by putting them thorough standardized testing. It is difficult to standardize a test for the effectiveness of produce washes on fruits and vegetables in comparison to clean running water.

First, there are a number of various bacteria, good and bad, found on produce. Two bacteria that are watched closely on fruits and vegetables are listeria and salmonella and their various strains. One sanitizer might be effective on listeria, however, not be as effective on salmonella. Consumers may not be aware that these pathogenic bacteria have different qualities, meaning what works to reduce one may not work in reducing the other.

Second, the surfaces of each type of produce vary greatly. Tomatoes are smooth, cucumbers have bumps. Each of the nooks and crannies make a difference in whether the bacteria get washed out or remains in the crevice.

The end result is to use clean running water as well as scrub any rough surfaces with a vegetable brush. Do not use household soaps and detergents for washing produce. These products have not been approved for washing produce.

Here are a few tips to keep your produce safe to eat:

• Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and eating, including produce grown at home, from a grocery store or from a farmers market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent or commercial produce is not recommended.

• Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, still wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce. For instance, wash the outside of watermelon, bananas, and cantaloupe. Scrub produce with a clean produce brush.

• After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.

• Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting. Discard cut produce left at room temperature for more than two hours.

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Here is a really quick and easy to make vegetable dish. It uses zucchini and tomatoes. Top with linguine and cheese to make it an entrée. Enjoy!

Zucchini and Tomatoes

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil

1/4 cup onion (chopped)

1 garlic clove (chopped)

1 pound zucchini (chopped with peel left on)

2 tomatoes (peeled and diced, or a 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained)

Black pepper, oregano and basil (to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add zucchini, tomatoes and seasonings. Cover pan, reduce heat, and cook until vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at