Food Safety

Washing Fruits and Vegetables

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The importance of washing fruits and vegetables before consumption

Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of a healthy lifestyle and Australians are fortunate to have access to a diverse array of seasonal locally grown produce throughout the year. Just like other food items, it’s important to handle fresh produce with care to ensure that they are safe to eat.

As many fruits and vegetables are eaten raw, it’s essential to wash them before consumption. Below are a couple of reasons on why this is so important.

  • To reduce the risk of exposure to microorganisms and bacteria that can make us sick and cause food poisoning. This can include E. coli, salmonella and listeria.

  • To remove dirt and soil that maybe found in fruits and vegetables. More common in vegetables such as lettuce or broccoli as they are grown in the soil, however, can be found in any fresh produce.

The Australian Institute of Food Safety has an 8-step guide on how to best wash fruits and vegetables to remove visible dirt or harmful pathogens that maybe present on the fresh produce. 

  • Step 1: Clean and sanitise sink and other food contact surfaces/utensils to be used.
  • Step 2: Wash hands using the correct hand washing method(for 20 seconds with water and soap).
  • Step 3: Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on the fruit or vegetables before handling or preparing.
  • Step 4: Rinse produce thoroughly with plain running water.
  • Step 5: Use a vegetable brush to scrub the rind of firm produce.
  • Step 6: Dry the produce with a paper towel.
  • Step 7: Place peeled or cut produce on a separate clean plate to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Step 8: Clean and sanitise the sink and any other food contact surfaces/utensils used.

Have a look at the package label before consuming. If in doubt, just give a quick rinse under the tap. According to Cathy Moir of CSIRO Agriculture and Food, a good rinse in fresh water is enough from both a practical and safety perspective.