Fresh Fruits and Veggies – Make Sure They’re Clean Enough to Eat
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Published on July 25, 2017

washed fruits and veggies in sink

Fresh Fruits and Veggies – Make Sure They’re Clean Enough to Eat

Slicing into a delicious melon or tossing together some fresh-from-the earth greens and veggies is a rewarding and amazing part of summer.

But before you devour, make sure you rinse thoroughly. Many of the freshest foods may look perfect and ready to eat when you put them in your shopping cart, but they are not always safe.

Avera Executive Chef Drew Laberis and his team process literally tons of fresh fruits and vegetables each week, preparing meals for patients and guests at a number of health care facilities in Sioux Falls. He said complacency can lead to illness.

“We wash everything except the lettuce that comes to us triple-washed – the contaminants on fresh fruit and vegetables are, in many cases, worse than what people think,” he said. “Whether it’s a case of apples, berries or otherwise, they all get a good rinse and in some cases, a thorough scrubbing, before they are prepared for a dish or presented for sale.”

Laberis said the best practice for all fresh foods is to submerge them in water, lift them out and allow them to strain in a colander. He also said that for the most part, people are unlikely to get food poisoning from unrinsed fresh fruit, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

“You’re washing away any accumulated grime and dirt, as well as chemical residue, and it goes for everything, including things you might not expect like watermelon,” he said. “Reducing exposure to chemicals is always a good choice. If it was on the ground, or in it, there’s very little you can do to avoid exposure – so rinsing or wiping fresh foods is always best.”

Organic fresh fruits and veggies – usually grown with no additional chemical treatments – do offer a better choice, Laberis said, and the smaller-farm-grown items you might buy at a farmers market also have an upside. But again – even something from your backyard still has exposure to the reality of nature.

“Anything grown outside can be exposed to chemicals, or to not-so-nice organic substances from animals and insects,” he said. “We use the guidelines of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean 15’ and the idea that no matter what – taking that extra step to rinse and clean fresh fruits is always worth the effort.”

Avera Executive Chef Drew Laberis said there’s always time to make your food safer with a simple rinse or a thorough cleaning. This list of fresh foods are known as the most often contaminated and should get a good scrub or aggressive rinsing before you serve or enjoy them:

The Dirty Dozen

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes

Note: Green beans and kale are moving up on the most-sprayed list as well.

The Clean 15

The Clean 15 are fruits and veggies that you can eat conventionally because they are not sprayed as heavily with pesticides. Organic is still preferred, as it usually has less exposure to chemicals, if any exposure at all.

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Onions
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Corn
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Watermelon

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