According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, around 4 million Australians get food-borne illnesses each year. These illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, which can contaminate our food and make us sick.
Food contamination can happen in several ways. Food may come into contact with contaminants in the water or soil on the farm, or on factory processing lines. Unsafe food practices may also cause contamination.
That’s why it’s so important to wash your fresh produce properly.
Can fruit and vegetables really cause food poisoning?
Most people associate food poisoning with foods they think are ‘high-risk’: chicken, seafood and dairy products. It’s true that these foods can cause food poisoning if they’re not kept at the right temperature, but fresh fruit and veggies can also carry a risk.
For example, recently in Australia, we’ve had a Salmonella havana outbreak linked to sprouts, and a Listeria outbreak linked to rockmelons.
Learning how to wash your vegetables and fruit correctly may help you to avoid those (and other) illnesses in your family.
Washing your fruit and veggies correctly can get rid of both visible dirt and invisible, harmful pathogens
How to wash vegetables and fruit
The Australian Institute of Food Safety advises that washing your fruit and veggies correctly can get rid of both visible dirt and invisible, harmful pathogens.
They suggest the following steps to ensure your fruit and veggies are germ-free.
1. With detergent and water, clean your sink and any other surfaces or utensils that will come into contact with the food. For example, if you want to chop up some watermelon, make sure your knife and cutting board are clean too.
2. Next, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap.
3. Before handling or prepping the fruit or veggies, cut away any damaged or bruised areas.
4. Rinse the produce thoroughly under plain, running water. You don’t need to use detergent or a specialised fruit or vegetable wash, but do always rinse them before peeling or chopping. You can also rub them gently with your hand to help dislodge any dirt.
5. If you’re washing firm produce with a rind, such as a melon, use a clean vegetable brush to give it a scrub. For leafy veggies like lettuce or cabbage, remove the outside leaves.
6. Dry the rinsed fruit or vegetables well with a clean paper towel.
7. If you’ve peeled or chopped your fruit or veggies, move them to a separate clean plate or container to prevent cross-contamination. Then store them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
8. Finally, once you’re finished, clean your sink, food contact surfaces and utensils again, and wash your hands.
It’s so important to wash your fresh produce properly
Enjoy your fresh fruit and veg!
Once you’ve washed them properly, all that’s left to do is enjoy your delicious fruit and veggies. Why not try a new healthy recipe with your freshly prepped produce?
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board November 2021.