Fear of contamination should not keep you from enjoying the many nutritional benefits of produce, says David Grotto, RD, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. Farm workers need to be careful when they handle the crops, because bacteria on their hands can transfer to the crops, he said. An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the United States, according to the CDC, and the bacteria that cause these illnesses, such as Salmonella or E. coli, can hang on tight to food even through a washing. Association. NY 10036. You will receive a verification email shortly. Rub the produce with your hands, or scrub with a vegetable brush, to remove potential bacteria in all the grooves and crevices. Jeanna Bryner - Live Science Managing Editor, David Grotto, RD, spokesman, American Dietetic By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD, Smart Grocery Shopping When You Have Diabetes, Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Dogs and Cats, Coronavirus in Context: Interviews With Experts. Safety Education, Washington. Why Must Some Juices Be Refrigerated, Others Not? Receive mail from us on behalf of our trusted partners or sponsors? By You would want to wash rougher-surfaced fruit more carefully. "Unfortunately, it [cold water rinsing] doesn't remove all of them, and that's a problem. It's better to be safe and wash all produce -- even bananas and melons with tough skins and rinds -- to remove any dirt, pesticides, or bacteria. At least 19 people became sick last week including three with life-threatening symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One potential source of contamination is your own kitchen. Lather your hands with soap and rub it between your fingers, beneath your fingernails, and all over the rest of your hands. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. (Which, he notes, will be particularly useful once this outbreak is said and done.) "We initiated the 'Fight Bac' campaign 10 years ago to inform consumers how to practice home food safety, and ever since, we have seen a declining incidence of food-borne illness," she says. Visit our corporate site. With a whole lettuce, she advises first taking off the outside leaves - … And although it happens rarely, bacteria in soil can also be taken up by the roots of plants and remain inside the plant's veins, where they would be impossible to remove by washing. In response to recurring outbreaks of E. coli linked to lettuce, the FDA earlier this year developed a Lettuce Safety Initiative, which aims to assess industry safety practices and alert consumers quickly in case of a problem. Keep in mind that produce is a raw product, grown in dirt, which is handled by lots of people before it ever gets into your kitchen. "New leaves grow up around the other leaves," within a head of romaine lettuce, Powell said, so bacteria find a sheltered environment between the leaves in which they can thrive. WebMD Medical News: "FDA Narrows For vegetables and other foods that are eaten raw, the best way to prevent outbreaks like this one involving romaine lettuce is through cleaner farming practices, Powell said. SOURCES: Food and Drug Administration web site. As the recall of tainted romaine lettuce expands, many plates could be devoid of the crisp veggie in an effort to stay healthy. Knives, cutting boards, counters, plates, and sponges should be cleaned with soap and water to prevent contamination. As you can see, the ready-to-eat spinach (like any bagged lettuce) has tons of bacteria. The only vegetables she would soak are potatoes, to loosen any soil before thoroughly washing them. "Just make sure you follow safe food-handling procedures in your kitchen, and you can continue to enjoy all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-protecting health benefits of all produce, including lettuces and greens," Grotto says. Some crops may be more easily contaminated than others. That said, it never hurts to wash your lettuce, as it will help you remove some bacteria, pesticides and dirt. Rough surfaces, like those on cantaloupes and spinach, provide lots of nooks and crannies in which bacteria can hide out, Niemira said. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. After an outbreak of E. coli infections, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that consumers not eat any products containing fresh spinach from Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif., with a date code of Oct. 1, 2006, or earlier. Washing With Vinegar Some sites advise washing lettuce and other delicate vegetables with vinegar instead of water. Sign Up to Receive Our Free Coroanvirus Newsletter, Becoming a Vegetarian: Foods to Choose From, Slideshow: Best and Worst Juices for Your Health. Tomatoes are much smoother, though their surfaces do contain tiny pores that make homes for bacteria. No soap or special solutions are necessary; plain, cool water is the best agent. There was a problem. Many people are not accustomed to washing melons, but "salmonella on the rind of a melon can be transferred to the knife and contaminate the flesh of the melon if you don't wash it," says Grotto. "Most bacteria can't be washed off," agreed Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University. Spinach Warning." Treating inoculated lettuce with straight or diluted white vinegar (5% or 2.5% acetic acid) for 60 seconds resulted in a 2-3 Log 10 reduction of Salmonella, E. coli, and coliforms. (It's not aliens. But how do you make sure you're following these safe procedures? But other spinach, greens, and lettuce are considered safe to eat -- as long as they are washed properly. And if you want to know the best way to scrub your lettuce clean, Dr. Oz will show you in the video above! "Fresh produce is the common source of outbreaks because it's eaten raw," Powell said, "And anything that comes into contact with it has the potential to contaminate it -- think about all of the places that produce goes after it leaves the farm.". The produce is not the only thing you need to wash. Wash the produce under a stream of cool water or using the spray nozzle of your faucet. While all produce is subject to bacterial contamination, lettuce appears to be especially vulnerable. Web site: www.fightbac.org. Centers for Rinsing it in water for 30 seconds does almost nothing. That might be a good idea, according to experts who say that washing produce, even very carefully, may not remove all the bacteria present. Wash your hands before handling romaine lettuce. Here are five tips for proper cleaning and handling of fresh produce: Despite the recent spinach scare, food-borne illnesses are actually on the decline overall, according to Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education in Washington. If you prefer sponges, wash them often, in either the dishwasher or washing machine. And when manure is used to fertilize the soil, bacteria can easily colonize the plants. 12 May 2010. The produce is not the only thing you need to wash. Wash your hands thoroughly, using warm water and soap, for at least 20 seconds before and after ... Wash the produce under a stream of cool water or using the spray nozzle of your faucet. Karen Rowan - Health Editor Bacteria can be transferred from dirt residue, or from any of the people handling the produce before and after it arrives in the supermarket. © © 2005 - 2019 WebMD LLC. After you’ve done this for 20 seconds, wash your hands off with cool water to remove any suds. Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. E. coli bacteria can even find their way into the interior of your produce. "We need to make sure that the water is clean, that some soil amendments aren't used, that the hands and the shipping containers that come in contact with the crops are clean, and that animals are kept away," Powell said.