Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dangers lurking at the Grocery Store

Dr. Oz (love him) recently talked about the bacteria lurking at grocery stores and ways to protect you and your family.  Here what he had to say about the produce section.


Dirty little secret: When you grab an apple for lunch, your hands may be the 20th pair to touch it. That’s right, veggies and fruits are picked, sorted, thrown on a truck, taken off a truck, sorted again, boxed, and unboxed all before they reach the display case where they’re fondled by other customers before they meet you. Experts say, all in all, 20 people will touch a tomato before you slice it up for your salad. And that’s in addition to all the animal waste that can mingle with produce on the long journey from farm to table.

Quick fix: Carefully wash all fruits and vegetables before eating, even if you don’t plan on eating the skin. When you peel or cut vegetables and fruits, the bacteria from the exterior can travel inside. Keep any prepped veggies, such as sliced tomatoes, at 41 degrees or cooler until you eat or cook them.

It has been so long now that I have been washing my produce and not just rinsing with water that I forget that it is not common in most households to wash their fruits and veggies with any type of scrubber or veggie wash. Remember just like washing hands or anything else, simply running water over our produce does not remove bacteria, germs and pesticides.  You can lower your risk with organic produce and locally grown produce, but washing is still recommended.

Here are two ways of washing.  Choose whichever works best for you.

Cool Water:  Wash the produce under a stream of cool water or using the spray nozzle of your faucet and rub the produce with your hands, or scrub with a vegetable brush, to remove potential bacteria in all the grooves and crevices.

Produce Wash: You can buy produce wash at the grocery store or make your own.  I know of two recipes; 1) equal parts water and vinegar or 2) grapefruit seed extract (3 to 4 drops to 4-6 oz of water).  Spray, rub and rinse or for leafy veggies & large quantities, soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

I love my reusable bags and use them whenever I remember to bring them into the stores.  I'm pretty good about the grocery store, but frequently forget at other stores.  Anyway, Dr. Oz had another great tip that I have a hard time remembering to do.

Reuse, recycle, and REWASH! Reusable bags are great for the environment, but can be bad for food safety. Wash them every 10 uses—using an acidic cleaner such as vinegar or running them through the washing machine—to remove any dangerous bacteria from your previous shopping trips.


OceanDesert said...

Tina, do you wash the pre-cut lettuce in the bags? Some of the dark greens I get at Costco say 'triple washed' and I don't usually wash it... Wondering your take!

Tina Sullivan said...

I've read that if the lettuce in the bags say they were pre-washed that they are fine to eat as is. I make sure I look at the bags as some of them are not pre-washed, but if they say pre-washed, then I don't wash or rinse them again. They are a time saver for sure!