To wash or not to wash

In this “new normal” we are experiencing due to COVID-19, the question arises should we wash the fresh produce that we pick up at the grocery store. Most people can consume vegetables with no ill effects.  However, the immune systems of the elderly and those at risk may be compromised.
    We know that the best way to destroy pathogens associated with foodborne illness is to heat them to a high enough temperature to kill any microorganisms that may be found on our fresh produce.  But what if we want to eat the produce, we have obtained from our garden, grocery store, or a Farmer’s Market raw and not cooked?  Undesirable bacteria are everywhere and can reproduce in food, while viruses on the other hand do not reproduce in food but act as a host to carry the virus to humans.  Both of these pathogens can be caused by improper hand washing hygiene, reports NEP Extension Assistant Patricia Luck. Although parasites are rare in vegetables, they too can be found on fresh produce due to improper hand washing.
    To properly wash fresh produce, we must first wash our hands.  To wash hands properly, first wet them with warm water, then apply soap and rub your hands together to create a thick lather, keep rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds as you wash your palms, the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails paying special attention to your cuticles.  Then rinse your hands till they are free of soap and dry with a clean towel. Do not handle produce with wet hands as wet hands may pick up and transmit germs.
    Do not swirl vegetables in a bowl of water as this may spread contaminants. Instead scrub them using a scrubbing brush and then rinse under running water.  (The scrubbing brush can be disinfected by running it through the dishwasher.)  After rinsing, dry produce with a clean towel or with paper towels.

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Wauneta Breeze

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