Vegetables and fruits are seen at a greengrocery in a market. Agustin Marcarian/Reuters
A recent column on the Environmental Working Group’s list of fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticides generated some reader comments. Most wondered if washing eliminates any pesticides residue.
While the EWG said washing doesn’t remove the fruit and produce from their list, it’s still recommended to wash all fruits and vegetables.
What’s important to reiterate is the overall goal is for Americans to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables for a healthy, well-balanced diet.
“There are many ways to promote organic produce without resorting to disparaging the more accessible forms of fruits and veggies that the science has repeatedly shown are safe,” says AFF Executive Director Teresa Thorne in an email.
Thorne said that lists like this can “negatively impact consumers’ purchasing of both organic and conventional produce.”
The AFF also points out that just because something has pesticide residues on food does not mean they are harmful. To help consumers, the AFF provides an easy-to-use risk calculator at www.safefruitsandveggies.com for pesticides.
The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends washing fruits and vegetables before eating. Not only is it good practice, but, they say, it can reduce and often eliminate residues.
Here are a few preparations tips.
Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
Vegetables on sale at the Guaicaipuro market. Photographer: Valery Sharifulin/TNS
Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If the package indicates that the contents have been pre-washed, you can use the produce without further washing.
Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first.
Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.
On a separate note, with highly perishable berries, one method for helping them stay fresh longer is to soak them in a vinegar bath. And don’t worry, they won’t taste like vinegar. This reportedly helps destroy bacteria and mold spores. Cared for this way, strawberries can last up to 2 weeks and raspberries a good week.
Here’s what you need to do:
Make a solution of 3 cups water to 1 cup white vinegar.
Place the berries in a bowl and cover with the water/vinegar solution.