How to Clean Your Fruits And VeggiesOct 7, 2020
With COVID-19 on everyone’s minds, you might be wondering how to keep your food safe. The good news is, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus could be transmitted through food or food packaging, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
However, COVID-19 can survive for days on many surfaces, so properly cleaning your kitchen before you wash fruits and veggies is more important now than ever.
But don’t let COVID-19 keep you from enjoying the foods you love, says McKenzie Caldwell, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in public health based in Charlotte, NC.
“You are much more likely to catch the virus directly from another human than from your food,” she says. “The most important advice I would give when it comes to food safety for fresh fruits and vegetables during the current COVID-19 outbreak is to take a deep breath and know the food is likely safe.”
Regardless of the current pandemic, you should always practice good food hygiene to protect yourself and your loved ones.
How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean
Instead of worrying about cleaning your food, focus more on cleaning your kitchen (and washing your hands!). “I do not think extra precautions with washing fruits and vegetables are necessary at this time,” says Caldwell.
The FDA always recommends these four steps to food safety:
1. Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces often.
2. Keep foods separate. Don’t cross-contaminate by, say, using the same knife and cutting board to cut raw chicken then broccoli without washing in between.
3. Cook food to the right temperature to avoid getting sick.
4. Always chill leftovers and refrigerate them within two hours.
How to Wash Produce
Cleaning your produce is important no matter what else is going on in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 1 in 6 Americans get sick due to foodborne illness each year (again, this is a separate issue from the novel coronavirus).
Follow these steps:
- Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water, even if you’ll discard the peel or skin later. You can transfer surface germs inside when you cut produce.
- Soak visibly dirty foods in clean water for a couple of minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.
- Trim and discard damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating food.
- Use a clean paper towel to dry produce (or a sanitized salad spinner for greens and delicate items).
- Don’t use bleach or other disinfectants on fruits and vegetables. (Instead use those in your sink, but rinse well after following the product’s instructions.)
How to Clean Different Types of Produce
Have questions about specific foods? Here’s how to clean different types of produce, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
- Soak in cold water for a minute.
- Rinse and spin dry.
- Or, rinse thoroughly in a colander and dry with clean paper towels.
- Brush away visible dirt and rinse under cold water, the dry thoroughly.
- Commercial mushrooms are grown in sterile rooms, so that “dirt” is actually clean.
- Use low water pressure to avoid damaging delicate berries.
- Wash berries right before you eat them, and wash only as many as you’ll eat right now to prolong their life.
- Brush away visible dirt and debris.
- Soak in cold water for a minute or more, then scrub if needed with a clean brush.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water, then dry with a clean paper towel.
What Not to Do
You might be tempted to take extra precautions right now. But instead of cleaning produce with bleach, lemon juice, or vinegar, focus on washing your hands often and keeping your kitchen clean instead.
Although it is unclear how produce is impacted during this pandemic, cooking and/or peeling fruit and vegetables might ease your mind. This is a new normal, so you can bend your rules to give yourself some peace of mind.
Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- How long can the virus that causes COVID-19 live on surfaces? hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/20/sars-cov-2-survive-on-surfaces/
Burden of Foodborne Illness: Findings
Guide to Washing Fresh Produce