Top tips on how to properly clean fruits and veggies


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It’s easy to blame that Chinese takeout when you’re doubled over on the bathroom floor with food poisoning, but it’s just as likely that the bacteria came from your home-cooked casserole.

Settle down — we’re not criticizing your cooking prowess. The mistake might have occurred before your cooking even commenced. Many of the U.S. outbreaks of foodborne illness in recent years have originated from contaminated produce — i.e., produce that you might not have washed properly.

The Food and Drug Administration in May released its seven tips for cleaning fruits and vegetables so that if you ever get food poisoning again, you confidently can point the finger at those egg rolls instead of your culinary masterpiece that would have brought Julia Child to tears (of joy, of course).

  1. Wash your hands! Food can be only as clean as the hands that handle it. And if you’re one of those people who think swiping your hands under the running faucet for a millisecond counts as “washing,” think again. Twenty seconds, people! WITH soap!
  2. Cut away damaged or bruised areas. Before you even start dicing that tomato, get rid of any unsightly spots.
  3. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. You know how a millisecond of water exposure doesn’t qualify as “hand-washing?” Well, that goes for the fruits and veggies, too. This time, though, there’s no need for soap. Just make sure to rub well enough to eliminate any dirt or other unwanted particles.
  4. Wash produce BEFORE you peel it. This way, dirt and bacteria don’t get transferred from the knife onto the fruits and veggies.
  5. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers. Don’t have a vegetable brush? Didn’t know they existed? That’s why HellaWella’s here for you! (To tell you about them, not buy them for you. Get it yourself!)
  6. Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel. This will help reduce any bacteria that still are clinging on after the wash.
  7. Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Leafy bunched vegetables grow close to the ground, where bacteria from irrigation systems thrive, so this eliminates the riskiest layer.

And now you’re free to return to the chopping block to create your latest and greatest — and cleanest — dish ever!