So you’ve added more fruits and veggies to your diet—that’s wonderful! Fresh produce is packed with important nutrients that help keep our bodies strong and healthy. But do you know how to properly wash those veggies and fruits?
Wilmot Cancer Institute registered dietitians Sue Czap and Melissa Zahn share a few tips to help you keep your food prep clean.
- Start with yourself. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before washing your raw produce.
- Don’t bother with fancy washes. There are numerous fruit and vegetables washes available on the market, but they aren’t necessary for cleaning and enjoying fresh produce. Soaps and washes are not recommended because they may leave residues, and soaps are not approved for consumption. Simply rinse well with cool, running water. Avoid using hot water as it could affect the texture of the produce. While there’s no specific length of time recommended for how long to wash, you want to make sure any visible dirt or debris is removed. Around 20 to 30 seconds is reasonable.
- Wash skins and rinds that are inedible. Even foods like melon or avocado, where the outer rind is cut and discarded, need to be washed. Bacteria can live on the outside of these fruits and veggies and spread to the inside when you cut them open. Be sure to wash—and, if practical, scrub—all produce. We recommend using a produce brush for firm produce, such as cantaloupe or potatoes, because it can get into the nooks and crannies. However, it’s not practical for soft produce like berries.
- Pay attention to utensils. Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria from preparing one food item is carried over to another item you’re preparing. It’s particularly relevant for raw meats and seafood. We recommend using separate utensils and cutting boards for raw, uncooked meats/seafood and raw fruits and vegetables. One way to make this easy and fun is to have different colored cutting boards dedicated to meat and seafood and to fruits and vegetables.
The Food & Drug Administration has a great resource for those interested in learning more about buying, storing and serving food safely.
Sue Czap is a registered dietitian and a board certified specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She teaches a monthly wellness cooking class for cancer survivors and works primarily from Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Pluta location.
Melissa Zahn is a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology at Wilmot Cancer Institute. She works primarily with patients and survivors who’ve been diagnosed and are receiving treatment for head and neck cancers.