Monday, September 21, 2015

How to Properly Clean Fresh Vegetables

PHOTO: Mother Earth News
I had a different post planned for today-but this one is taking priority. I have interrupted my book writing to post this. Please forgive my rant but...
I was doing some research for my book-and I have lost count of how many times I have seen the advice to clean your fruits, herbs and vegetables with a bleach solution!
No. NO. and NOOOO!! 
I realize we have a collective germ-phobia and want our food to be "safe" to eat, and I don't know who started this "soak your food in bleach" idea, but please, Do NOT soak ANY food in bleach solution! Fruits, vegetables and herbs are extremely absorbent and will ABSORB whatever you are using to clean it!
Bleach is an excellent disinfectant for hard surfaces, such as counter tops, tile grout and toilets. But people, bleach is toxic if ingested!  It has no place and is not recommended in food preparation other than cleaning your counters, sinks and possibly your cutting boards before and after use.
Sodium hypochlorite is the chemical commonly found in bleach. It is a caustic substance which, when diluted, can cause stomach and bowel irritation. It causes immediate cell damage upon exposure, and can cause damage to the skin, esophagus, stomach, intestines, blood vessels, blood cells, heart, nervous system and other internal tissues if ingested.
"Oh-but you only use a little tiny bit" you say. Well, how do we know what effect that the little tiny bit, ingested over and over again, for years and years has on your internal organs? Is there any reputable scientific data on this? Why would one use a caustic chemical to clean the pesticides, wax, dirt and bacteria from your vegetables (Especially organic ones?) when there are much safer and effective alternatives?
My friends, here's what you can do instead of ingesting poisonous chemicals: Wash your herbs, fruits and vegetables in plain warm running water and rub or brush the skin surface as you clean it. 
Water is a universal solvent and works all on its own. You can use cider vinegar or lemon or lime juice if you need extra assurance - or just cut or peel the skin off completely - but PLEASE do NOT use soap, bleach or any other detergent, which is not designed for consumption! Warm (or even cool) running water is all you need.
'But what about this fancy ABC Company fruit and vegetable wash?' 
Not necessary! While they may claim to kill more bacteria than water, remember, they are also trying to sell a product-a product developed and marketed based on our fear of germs and dirty food.  
[Note that a recent study from the University of Maine has shown that tap water does the best job at cleaning produce. ]
In fact, when produce is rinsed thoroughly under running tap water, 98 percent of bacteria is removed. 
If you are still not convinced, you can make a safe homemade produce wash by mixing one part cider or white vinegar (or lemon juice) with three parts water. Note that vinegar or lemon juice may change the texture or taste of produce, (and bleach will really change the taste) so rinse well in running water after using. This solution will also remove wax from the fruit/vegetable skin surface.
'I've heard Grapeseed extract kills bacteria and fungus-can I use that to clean my veggies?'
My research has found that while some studies indicate that grape seed extract can be used as an anti- fungal, other studies have shown that additives to the extract such as triclosan, can be the reason for those results, and do not recommend Grapeseed Extract for food preparation use. Read more about questionable  studies and properties of Grape seed Extract here
Remember that your chance of getting a food-borne illness is actually very small. Taking precautions such as rinsing your produce right before use, and cutting away bruises or blemishes decreases that chance even more, but there’s no need for produce washes that could actually be leaving behind a residue- and especially no need for soaking or spraying in bleach solutions, in order to keep you and your family safe. 

Further Reading:







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Contact Barbara: bg.bgini@gmail.com