Does this sound familiar?
Every time we turn around we hear alarming news reports about food contamination
incidents that lead to illness and sometimes even death.
Do you find that the more research you do into the contamination of produce from ecoli,
pesticides, herbicides, bacteria and other dangerous substances, the more afraid you become?
But don’t despair – there are things you can do to make your produce consumption safer.
According to the Center for Food Safety, food can become contaminated with harmful
bacteria where it is produced, where it is sold, or even on your kitchen counter.
Here are some tips for safer buying, cleaning, preparation and storage to help prevent
#1. Wash Hands & Disinfect Naturally
Yes, that wise advice you heard all of your life is still the best way to avoid getting sick.
Use hot water and soap to wash your hands before and after handling food, and after
using the bathroom, changing a diaper or handling pets.
Disinfect dishes, cutting boards and counters with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
Bacteria from one food item could remain on the cutting board, dishes or counter and contaminate the
next food item prepared there.
Or simply spritz your cutting boards and utensils first with vinegar, then follow with
3% hydrogen peroxide, then rinse.
Use 4-cup baking soda and 1⁄2-cup white vinegar with warm water to scrub down countertops and tile.
Clean glass surfaces by mixing equal amounts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
The disinfecting solution needs to sit on the surface to be sanitized for about 10 minutes to be effective.
#2. Choose Organic
Buy organic produce wherever possible.
Some people pooh-pooh the whole idea of organic produce, claiming it is just a gimmick
to sell more produce at a higher price.
In reality, though, there are strict government standards by which foods are regulated–
in other words, not just anyone can slap an “organic” label on their produce and call it a sale.
The bottom line is, organic produce does not have residue from fungicides, herbicides,
Conventionally grown produce does.
Note, however, that organic produce could still harbor bacteria, so washing still applies.
#3. Go Local
Purchase locally-grown organic produce whenever possible.
This means you will be eating primarily seasonal foods, but this is a healthy, natural
Local foods are less likely to be sprayed with chemicals – they are better adapted to their
growing region, and they do not spend long amounts of time in transport.
4. Fight Ecoli Naturally
If you are concerned about pathogens like E. coli, try spritzing your produce with
hydrogen peroxide followed by white vinegar.
#5. Which Cleaning Method Works Best?
I have often wondered whether those expensive fruit and veggie washes are worth the cost.
The editors of a popular food magazine, wondered too, so they decided to conduct some
comparative produce cleaning tests, by cleaning apples and pears in four different ways:
1.They washed one batch with an antibacterial soap–not a smart idea by the way
2.They washed other pieces of fruit with a solution of diluted vinegar (one part vinegar to three
parts water), rinsing afterward with pure water.
3.They scrubbed the third group with a brush,
4.They simply rinsed the fourth group with clean water.
To measure how well each technique worked, they sampled the outside of the fruit with sterile cotton swabs,
then rubbed the little bits of grime onto Petri dishes.
Next they let the Petri dishes sit at 80 degrees for several days to see what bacteria grew.
Then they counted how many bacterial colonies were present.
It turns out the scrub brush removed 85 percent of the bacteria — a little more than the water alone.
However, the produce cleaning method that worked the best was the dilute vinegar rinse.
The vinegar solution removed 98 percent of the bacteria.
#6. Make Your Own Fruit &Veggie Wash
A clean spray bottle
Cleaning Hard-skinned Fruits and Vegetables:
-Fill your spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water.
-Spray the vinegar solution onto your fruits and vegetables, rub it in and rinse.
-Use a scrub brush to work the solution into the skin, if necessary.
I recycle an old fruit and vegetable spray bottle and fill it with three cups of water and one cup of
I spray each item with about six squirts of the solution and then rinse it in filtered water which washes
off the residual taste vinegar and completes the cleaning process.
Natural fruit and vegetable washes are helpful but making your own solution of vinegar and water has
been proven to be more effective!
#7. Soak Produce in a Vinegar Solution
Soaking produce in a vinegar and water solution will remove pesticides, waxes, microbes,
and other undesirable residues from produce.
Vinegar is an effective natural disinfectant, and even kills both salmonella and E. coli, making it a
valuable sanitizer in the kitchen.
The acetic acid in vinegar kills bacteria and helps to dissolve the wax and pesticide residues found on the
skins of many fruits and vegetables.
Soak greens in vinegar and water solution for at least ten minutes and more solid vegetables
for at least twenty, and rinse well.
#8. Wash & Peel Non Organic Produce
Peel foods like apples, pears, and peaches if they aren’t organic.
If your produce is organic, wash it thoroughly before consuming the peeling to kill any
It is best to clean fresh produce well.
– Use a scrub brush to remove additional dirt and bacteria.
– Cut out bruised or damaged areas; bacteria can thrive there.
-As explained above adding one part vinegar or lemon juice to the three parts water helps,
but you don’t need to use any soap, detergents or special cleaners.
– Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe off more bacteria.
-Rinse with filtered water.
It is important to rinse food even if you are going to peel it.
#9. Grow Your Own
Growing your own fruits and vegetables assures that you know what goes on and into them.
Container gardening is a possibility for those whose space is limited.
Containers’ mobility also helps if you have sunny patches that move throughout the day.
There are raised beds and other kinds of planters that can allow nearly everyone to grow
something to eat.
Tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, blackberries, and melons are good foods to start with.
Or start with sprouts, wheatgrass, microgreens and herbs.
#10. Marinate Food in the Fridge
Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
Sauce used for marinating raw meat, poultry or seafood should never be reused on cooked food,
unless it has just been boiled.
#11. Handle Leftovers Safely
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking.
Cool temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
Store food in clean, covered glass containers.
#12. Take Extra Precautions with Animal Products
The Center for Food Safety cautions that you must take extra special precautions with raw meat,
poultry and seafood.
If you prepare animal products, always keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separated from
From the minute you take these raw meats from the store shelf until you cook them, it is best
to keep them in plastic bags to prevent juices from dripping.
The uncooked juices can contain harmful bacteria.
Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
Never use the same one for fresh produce.
#13. What Others Are Doing
See how some of my Facebook friends are cleaning their produce below:
Food safety is critical to our health!
How do you make sure your food is safe?
How do you clean your fruits and vegetables?
Share your thoughts, suggestions and experiences with us.