September is Food Safety Month and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled some tips on washing fruits and vegetables. Safe handling a preparation of fresh produce can reduce the risk of food poisoning which affects 48 million people every year.
At the store, choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged. Pre-cut items, such as bagged salad or sliced fruit should only be purchased if they are refrigerated or on ice.
At home, use a workspace where everything, including countertops, cutting board and utensils, are clean. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, long enough to sing Happy Birthday twice, with warm running water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Cut away damaged or bruised areas of other produce, then, while holding it under cool running water, gently rub the produce. Do not use soap or produce wash. Fruit that you intend to peel or slice should also be washed first, so dirt or bacteria aren’t transfered from the exterior of the fruit to the interior. Produce with a firm skin or rind, such as a melons, squash, cucumbers and potatoes, should be scrubbed with a a clean vegetable brush.
After you wash the produce, dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. This will help to further reduce bacteria that may be present.