Getting your family into a routine of eating lots of fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do for their health.
However, if you’re not washing them you’re instantly undermining these good habits and putting them at risk of foodborne illnesses and other nasty substances.
What’s Contaminating Our Fruits and Veggies?
As nutritious as they are, fruits and vegetables often have a long journey to our table, during which they can pick up bacteria, viruses and parasites.
In Hong Kong there were more than 700 incidences of E.coli, Listeria, and Salmonella caused by foodborne pathogens in 2016—but globally this figure reaches the millions each year.
As well as pathogens, pesticides can lurk on the surface of our fruit and veg and even penetrate the flesh of thinner-skinned produce.
While this can sound scary, the levels of these are really low and international standards limit the levels of permitted pesticides.
Overall, eating fresh produce is still better than not eating it at all as the health benefits outweigh any potential negative effect.
If you’re purchasing organic food, you can usually dig deeper for information about the processes and chemicals used during production.
Once it leaves the farm though, you still need to be wary of contamination during transit or in stores.
Farm-to-table vegetables will eliminate the pesticide problem, although it’s worth checking the soil, manure or water that’s used for any potentially harmful chemicals there too.
Overall, eating fresh produce is still better than not eating it at all, as the health benefits outweigh any potential negative effect.
But even if you’re not purchasing mass-market fruits and vegetables, it is still a good idea to give them a wash!
Old advice included soaking produce in water, but it’s now thought this could cause further contamination and vital nutrients to leach out. A simple rinse is a better alternative.
What’s a Wax Coating?
If you’ve ever wondered why apples or eggplants look so glossy, it’s because certain produce is given an edible wax coating to lock in moisture and slow down the degradation before it reaches our shelves.
The good news is that it’s been considered safe to eat for decades, with the waxes being made from insects or plants—although different countries specify their own maximum levels.
The amount of wax we ingest is minimal compared to other additives we consume every day.
The wax is also indigestible and passes through our bodies without being absorbed or breaking down.
Plus, the amount we ingest is minimal compared to other additives we consume every day: The average apple only needs two drops of wax to cover its entire surface.
If anyone is concerned about the wax coating, it can be removed from some fruit and veg with a scrubbing brush and hot water.
Alternatively, you can simply peel the item or buy it wax-free direct from farmers.
How Can I Wash My Fruits and Veggies?
Thankfully, it just takes some super simple handling and washing to drastically reduce contamination on produce.
A popular homemade solution mixes white vinegar and water (either equal parts water and vinegar, or one part vinegar and three parts water).
Simply spray the vinegar solution on, rub, and rinse with water. Do note that it could change the taste and texture of the food.
2. Fruits & Veggie Wash/Rinse
There are now convenient products formulated to help you clean your produce without the need for DIY solutions.
Many of these are made from plant- and mineral-based ingredients, so you can be sure you’re not just replacing one chemical with another!
Always search for products that are free from toxic ingredients as some residue may be left on the produce, even after rinsing.
3. Baking Soda
Food scientists from the University of Massachusetts in the U.S. found baking soda in water was more effective at degrading pesticides than bleach or water alone.
Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of water to replicate this method at home.
4. Just Water
Believe it or not, running cold water is generally regarded as a great way of removing pathogens.
Some studies recommend distilled water or bottled water as these have already been filtered and purified to remove contaminants.
There’s no one method that is 100% effective at removing all pathogens and pesticides on produce.
So it’s perhaps less important to focus on the minutia of each method and more important to pick a method you will stick to.
Get in the habit of washing all your fruits and veggies to keep your family healthier!