January 22, 2018

Food Safety Myth: Pre Packaged Produce Doesn’t Need Washing

WashingproduceFight Bac! and the Partnership for Food Safety Education have been educating the public about food safety myths and facts for years. Food Poisoning Bulletin recently attended one of their webinars where they addressed those myths. Their latest is: pre packaged produce doesn’t need washing.

The truth is that you must read the label first to make sure it says “ready to eat”, “washed” or “triple washed”. If the label does not say that, wash your hands, then rinse the product under running tap water. Scrub firm fruits and veggies, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce germs.

Cooler water is better than hot for helping the product keep quality. While you can reduce some pathogens on leafy greens by using a vinegar-based salad dressing, the chlorine wash those items undergo during processing is much more effective. Experts don’t recommend vinegar as a surface cleaner.

Bagged salads are very popular, and they are usually prewashed. Re-washing makes those salads less safe because they can be contaminated by your kitchen. A report at the Center for Consumer Research at US Davis said, “in brief, consumers don’t wash up very well and may contaminate product due to dirty hands and a dirty sink.”

Veggie washes may get some bacteria off, but don’t come close to getting it all off. Don’t rely on those commercial products. You can certainly use them if they make you feel better or if it encourages you to wash produce. But bacteria can get inside the produce, and when that happens, no washing of any kind will remove it. Even when you grow your own vegetables in your garden, use good practices. Wash your hands before harvest, and use clean water to water your garden.

Because there is no thermal kill step on these products, it’s important that producers use good agricultural practices and use high quality wash and flume water. Chlorine, ozone, and organic acids can and should be used to sanitize the water in the fields and during processing. Ice and packaging materials need to be clean. Careful farming and quality control are important. While food safety starts on the farm, it must continue at home.

Comments

  1. Good article, thanks!

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