By Lauren Rae
TRYM Fitness, CPT & Sunwarrior contributing writer
Living a plant-based lifestyle offers so many delicious options for dishes, smoothies, and snacks filled with the earth’s natural goodness! Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise, most of you reading this are aware of the need to handle animal products carefully and cook accordingly. In addition, your mother may have taught you from the beginning the importance of washing your fruits and vegetables. But just how effective is tap water for removing dirt, pesticides, bacteria, and the sticky finger prints of everyone who has handled your produce from mother earth to your kitchen sink?
Did you know that the Federal Health Officials estimate close to 48 million people become ill as a result of consuming food contaminated with germs? These contaminants can affect the vitamin and mineral content of your produce in addition to causing serious illness such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. Coli to those that consume them. I’m going to tell you why it is important to wash them and then give you 5 easy steps to follow when handling your produce to keep yourself and your loved ones contaminate-FREE.
The Food and Drug Administration shines light on the many times and ways that our produce can become contaminated:
- During the growing phase because the produce will come into contact with animals and contaminated soil or water.
- Upon Harvest and delivery as a result of poor hygiene among the workers, and the risk increases as it passes through several sets of hands.
- Contamination can even occur after purchase, through improper storage and during preparation in your own home.
How to handle your produce to prevent contamination in 5 easy steps:
- Buy Smart - When purchasing produce, choose items that aren’t bruised or damaged and that are stored at correct temperatures. Certain pre-cut items such as salad greens or half of a melon may even need to be stored on ice.
- Store Smart - Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (berries, lettuce, herbs etc.) in a clean refrigerator on the top shelf or away from any animal products if necessary. Always assume that something will leak and take the safe route by keeping your newly clean greens up and away from all possible contaminants. Be sure to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees! If you are unsure as to which produce items are perishable, just talk to your local grocer.
- Wash your hands - Your hands spread 80% of all illness causing germs! The FDA recommends washing for 20 seconds before handling your vegetables and 20 seconds after you handle them using soap, warm water, and drying completely.
- Use clean utensils to scrub - Use a produce brush to clean excess dirt and hard-to-remove microbes from produce grown in soil like potatoes, carrots, and beets.
- Use a veggie wash - There are various all natural vegetable-safe “washes” available in the natural foods section that remove wax-based chemicals and pesticides without leaving residue or an after-taste. For an inexpensive substitute for commercial fruit & vegetable cleaners, use baking soda.
A little awareness goes a long way! Being aware that your fruits and vegetables have been exposed to germs and taking the necessary precaution to clean them effectively by following the 5 easy steps to prevent contamination can keep you and your family safe and healthy.
For more information about food safety, visit: Food Facts on FDA.gov