I’ve always been told that I should rinse fruit such as apples before eating it, to get rid of pesticides and germs. But I would never believe my hands were germ free after just rinsing them – I use an antibacterial soap. So my question is, can I really trust that just holding my fruit under the faucet for a few seconds is enough to make it safe to eat?
No cite here, but I would say no; it won’t remove or kill germs - I agree with your handwashing reasoning - even a hand wash with soap isn’t necessarily effective, if it isn’t thorough - hands are different to fruits, obviously, but some of the same principles apply.
I don’t think it will particularly effectively remove pesticides either; quite a few insecticides are oily or oil-soluble, either by chemical nature, or by design (to make them somewhat rainproof). Pesticides shouldn’t really be present at high levels in shop-bought fruit anyway, or something is very wrong.
For fruit/vegetables that are to be cooked and/or eaten on their own, the main cause for concern on the ‘germs’ front would be soil-borne microorganisms, such as fecal bacteria (from manure) and parasites such as Toxicara - it might be possible to scrub most of these off something as resilient as a carrot, but forget it for raspberries (which, IMO, should never be washed or even refrigerated, if it can be helped), but carrots grow in direct contact with soil.
If you’re going to chop fruits and add them to a high-risk foodstuff, such as cream or mayonnaise, you’re going to be adding pathogens to it, but usually in small enough quantities to be harmless, as long as the food is properly stored thereafter and not left at room temperature so that they can multiply out of control.
Washing fruit and veggies will get rid of surface dust and dirt, along with insects (i.e., grapes, lettuce). Most produce is thoroughly rinsed in the processing plants and the washing you do just removes grime that has accumulated since.
As what Cillasi said…
In Ierland I never washed fruit from the market, mostly because I never saw other doing it. But when I arrived in France several people told that I should always wash fruit/veg even if it looked clean.
Personally I do it to remove dirt. If I picked an apple of a tree I’d give it a quick rub to shine it up and then start munching, and not go looking for a tap.
Studies, and no I can’t site them, have shown that regardless of what way the fruits and veggies are grown (organic vs. with chemical assisstance) and however they are treated once they enter the home, people who eat them are better off healthwise than those that don’t so I don’t worry terribly much. I do was off most things, or at least shine them.
Here’s a study from Colorado University:
Any food is pretty disgusting if you examine it too closely, and hunger tends to win out over squeamishness. Fruits and vegetables are fertilized in fecal matter, after all, and meats are even grosser. Unless you want to live like Adrian Monk, I’d recommend fixating on something else, like Swift Boat Veterans Against Kerry or the latest Britney Spears outrage. A little denial can be a good thing.
If you are truly concerned about bacteria and other micro-organisms, fill a sink with water and add a capfull of bleach. Immerse your produce, slosh around a few seconds and rinse. It won’t change the taste and will kill most critters.
Am I imagining, or wasn’t there a product for sale in the US about 4-5 years ago that you could spray on fruit and veggies, that was supposed to wash it better than water?
Ah, yes, FIT: http://www.tryfit.com/ , which is apparently still for sale (if you can find it).
Did you guys see nature documentaries about African hyienas , vultures or crocodiles ?
I wish I had the same kind of stomach juices.
I can’t offer any biochemical mechanism (which kind of bugs me, given my background) but some years ago, I found that the following works extremely well on romaine lettuce. The locally grown stuff tends to have accumulate a fair amount of grit or dirt between the leaves. Water alone wasn’t doing it, anfd I really didn’t feel like hand-rubbing each leaf with a clean soft dish towel.
Separate the leaves, stack them crossways in a large colander, then swish the collander in a large bowl with 4-6 qts cold water with 1-2 tbsp white vinegar. Lift the colander out, drain completely, shake out all excess water and then reimmerse – twice. A salad spinner with a removable collander and an extra bowl might be faster, but I have a larger stand alone collander which I prefer.
It only takes a minute or two to clean a whole head of Romaine this way, and the amount of dirt that comes off in the first and second immersions is impressive (of course, I suppose that would depend on how much dirt was on there to begin with. The vinegar water treatment also crispd up the lettuce and make it last a lot longer in the refrigerator (I spin it dry, and then store it it in a large plastic bag wrapped in some dry paper towel. A couple oif years ago, a few members of my family were heavily into lettuce turkey roll-ups (similar to a regular turkey rollup, but with a lettuce leaf in place of the bread), and this technique came in extremely handy.
The same process with plain cold and warm water control batches didn’t produce nearly as good results. I wash other groceries this way, too, but I only quantified it with romaine.
Nobody’s mentioned the risk of Hepatitis A yet.
Which is why rinsing in a bleach solution is a good idea if living in the third world.