The Dangers of Unwashed Produce & How to Steer Clear

by BodyHealth Representatives April 04, 2017 2 min read

The Dangers of Unwashed Produce & How to Steer Clear

With spring and summer comes an abundance of fresh produce at farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a great source of basic levels of dietary nutrients essential to fuel and power our bodies, such as potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid and vitamins A and C. What’s not to love?

Unwashed produce may be harboring some unseen, unwelcome disease-causing organisms (pathogens). Before you fill your plate with a heaping pile of fresh fruits and vegetables, make sure you try to protect yourself from the harmful bacteria and pesticide residue that can linger on unwashed produce.

Unwashed produce can contain harmful foodborne pathogens like salmonella, listeria, E. coli, norovirus and more. Foodborne illnesses can cause a range of negative symptoms—from mild cramps and nausea to fever, diarrhea and severe dehydration.

Even otherwise healthy people are not immune to the effects of toxic exposure. If the produce was treated with pesticides during its growth (as many are), then your vegetables could be loaded with glyphosate and atrazine, two of the most common herbicides used in the United States.

Certain fruits and vegetables are more prone to require pesticide use in their growth (view a list from the Environmental Working Group). Washing and storing your produce in accordance with FDA standards for selecting and serving fresh produce will help reduce your family’s daily toxic load. Remember the three tips below when you come home with your bags of fresh produce.

1. Inspect Carefully

Be conscious of the produce you select in the store. If you’re hand-picking each of your individual fruits and vegetables, select produce that is not visibly bruised or damaged, as these items may already be rotting. If you are opting for pre-cut fruits and vegetables, make sure the items you select are being stored under proper conditions (e.g., fruit like pre-cut watermelon should be stored in very cool fridge or surrounded by ice to maintain an optimal temperature).

2. Wash Thoroughly

The FDA recommends washing all fruits and vegetables under cold running water to ensure the food you are about to consume is free of harmful bacteria or pesticide residue. Washing your produce with soap or detergent is not recommended, however. Produce with a firm shell layer, including melons, cucumbers and potatoes should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush while running under water to remove any stubborn residue.

3. Store Washed Fruits & Vegetables Properly

The FDA recommends refrigerating all produce, whether fresh, pre-cut or packaged. Take note of your refrigerator settings and make sure you are creating a safe and effective environment for your foods (generally, 40° F or below). Most modern refrigerators have different compartments for fruits and vegetables.