How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables
Every foodservice professional needs to understand the importance of washing fresh produce and keeping up with a regular routine of restaurant cleaning. According to the FDA, coronavirus is not spread by eating contaminated foods. However, you can protect your customers and staff by using the same food safety practices you would use to prevent foodborne illnesses like norovirus. This includes washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove any contamination from pesticides, waxes, and pathogens.
Tips for Washing Produce
Before you get started washing your produce, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds or longer
- Designate and sanitize a produce washing station
- Remove produce from bags and boxes immediately
- Discard all bags and containers
- Do not use hand soap, bleach, or alcohol on produce
How to Wash Vegetables
There are two common methods used for washing produce. Softer produce or leafy greens should be cleaned using a soaking method, while firmer-skinned vegetables can be cleaned using a spray solution. We'll outline these two methods of cleaning fruits and veggies, so you can serve your customers safe, fresh foods.
1. How to Wash Produce with the Soaking Method
Using the soak method to wash produce is ideal for tightly packaged fruits like berries and vegetables with crevices, like broccoli. Not only does soaking produce rid it of harmful germs or chemicals, but it can also be used to revitalize produce for a better taste and longer life. If you purchase local, organic fruits and vegetables that contain no chemicals or harmful preservatives, you can use warm water to rinse your produce.
You’ll need the following items for this method:
- Stainless steel sink
- Food storage bin
- Vegetable wash or distilled vinegar
- Fresh water
Here are the steps to washing vegetables and fruits with the soaking method:
- Sanitize sink, wash hands, and use soap and water to clean all areas coming into contact with your fresh produce.
- Fill sink with either diluted wash or vinegar solution. If you are using a commercial wash, use a 1:30 ratio of wash to water, or approximately 4 to 6 oz. of wash to 1 gallon of water.
- Soak vegetables for at least 30 seconds.
- Place them in a colander and use hands to rub the produce while rinsing with cold water.
- Let produce air dry and enjoy.
We suggest using these steps with the following types of produce:
2. How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables with the Spray Method
Produce with firmer skin such as eggplant, potatoes, or cucumbers may benefit from using a spray and scrub to thoroughly clean away dirt and pesticides. This method is also ideal for larger, smooth fruits and vegetables without crevices or cracks.
To clean your fruits and vegetables with the spray method, you’ll need the following items:
- Kitchen sink
- Spray bottle
- Distilled vinegar
- Vegetable prep brush (optional)
- Fresh water
For effective cleaning of your fruits and vegetables, here are the steps:
- Wash hands and all areas coming into contact with your fresh produce with soap and water.
- Fill a spray bottle with your solution and mist the entire surface of each vegetable or fruit.
- Let the coated produce sit for at least 30 seconds.
- Use your hands or a vegetable cleaning brush to scrub produce and rinse the solution off under cold running water.
- Let produce air dry and enjoy.
The spray method works best with these types of fruits and vegetables:
Cleaning Vegetables with Vinegar
Adding vinegar to your fruit and veggie cleaning can help remove extra bacteria. Cleaning with just water is known to remove 98% of the bacteria on fruit and vegetables, but adding vinegar will not hurt the process. In some cases, washing your fruits and vegetables with vinegar has been known to increase the shelf-life.
If you’re opting for vinegar instead, it is recommended you use a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Vinegar can be used in the soaking method with the steps above as well as the spray method.
Why Do You Have to Wash Fruits?
Washing fruit and vegetables is an important part of food safety because it can help prevent cross-contamination while ridding your produce of pesticides or chemicals. Thoroughly examining and washing vegetables before service increases your chance of avoiding a foodborne outbreak caused by contaminated produce. Plus, the chemicals used in pesticides can irritate guests with sensitive stomachs or allergies.
By washing every piece of produce that will be served raw, you’ll greatly reduce the chance of your customers getting a foodborne illness, and you’ll be executing safe food preparation practices in your restaurant, deli, bar, or catering business. Additionally, obtaining a food handling certification is critical in the foodservice industry and will help ensure you continue to serve safe and clean food to your customers.