How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

It is essential for every foodservice professional to understand the importance of washing fresh produce and establishing a 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

When washing produce, it's important to remember that there are a variety of precautionary steps you should take. Before you get started, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the process easier:

  • 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. Below, 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

Rinsing tomatoes in water

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.

To correctly use this method, you’ll need the following items on hand:

  • Stainless steel sink
  • Food storage bin
  • Vegetable wash or distilled vinegar
  • Colander
  • Fresh water

If you plan on using the soaking method to clean fruits and vegetables in your kitchen, be sure to adhere to the following steps:

Regal veggie wash
  1. Sanitize sink, wash hands, and use soap and water to clean all areas coming into contact with your fresh produce.
  2. 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.
  3. Soak vegetables for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Place them in a colander and use hands to rub the produce while rinsing with cold water.
  5. Let produce air dry and enjoy.

What Should You Use the Soaking Method For?

While effective, the soaking method should only be used on certain fruits and vegetables. We suggest using these steps with the following types of produce:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Grapes
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

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:

To effectively clean your fruits and vegetables using the spray method, be sure to follow the steps below:

Cleaning a potato with a vegetable prep brush
  1. Wash hands and all areas coming into contact with your fresh produce with soap and water.
  2. Fill a spray bottle with your solution and mist the entire surface of each vegetable or fruit.
  3. Let the coated produce sit for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Use your hands or a vegetable cleaning brush to scrub produce and rinse the solution off under cold running water.
  5. Let produce air dry and enjoy.

What Should You Use the Spray Method For?

As is the case with the soaking method, you should only use the spray method with certain types of produce. This method works best with these types of fruits and vegetables:

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Melons
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Cleaning Vegetables with Vinegar

Washing lettuce with water

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.

Posted in: Food Safety | Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Ashley Kufera
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