We are seeing more and more in the news about rising E.Coli outbreaks, especially among romaine lettuce. Eating leafy greens is important for our health, but many people are becoming wary because sometimes it feels the risk isn’t worth it.
Combine the outbreaks with news of the FDA doing limited food inspections during the government shut down (which has thankfully been resolved for now), and people have the right to be concerned.
Is it best to avoid eating raw vegetables, especially leafy greens like romaine?
Or can we do something to protect ourselves from potentially deadly pathogens on our produce?
Trust The Experts
First of all, I highly recommend you always follow the recommendations given by public health experts. If they report an outbreak and are telling you to avoid romaine (or whatever it may be), AVOID IT!
However, we also know that by the time outbreaks are reported, it’s often too late for many people. Produce has already been purchased and even eaten.
That’s why it is important that we develop a system at home for cleaning bacteria and germs off of our produce. We aren’t just trying to wash off pesticides or chemicals, so even if you buy organic, you still need to wash your produce.
Properly washing your produce is the best way to protect your health. Even if you buy a bag of pre-cut lettuce and it says, “Triple Washed!” it is so important you wash it yourself. Your produce can become contaminated at any time. You never know when bacteria, listeria, or E. Coli may be lurking on surfaces in the processing facility that could contaminate your food after being washed.
There are some people out there that believe that washing your pre-washed produce at home actually gives you greater rinse of contamination than eating it from the bag because your sink & counter could have germs. However, if you follow my recommendations here, that won’t be the case.
Also, if your sink/counter had harmful germs…well…you’re probably getting sick anyway. You most likely use your sink and counter for all food prep, not just veggie washing.
A Realistic Warning
Before we get into how to properly clean produce, you must remember that even with very careful cleaning, it is still possible to leave germs behind, and it only takes a very small amount to make you sick.
However, it is our duty to do the best we can to protect our health and the health of our family, so don’t let the possibility of imperfection be an excuse for lazy cleaning of your produce.
What To Avoid
Many fruit and veggie washes are on the market nowadays. They vary widely in their ingredients, but some research shows many of these to not be more effective than other methods.
However, if you have a fruit and veggie wash spray you love, go for it, but do your research on the product. Many of them have chemicals that might make some people uncomfortable. But without these chemicals, it may not be effective for cleaning bacteria or other dangerous germs.
Personally, I believe there are better ways to clean your produce.
Use Electrolyzed Water
Not all chemicals are bad! In fact, everything is made up chemicals. So trying to find “chemical free” ways to do things is impossible. Water is made of chemicals. All matter is made of chemicals.
When people talk about using “no chemicals”, what they probably should say is no harsh chemicals. That is where we can draw the line. Electrolyzed water is hypochlorous acid and a small amount of sodium hydroxide, and it is a gentle, weak acid chemical that is effective against almost every pathogen out there while being completely safe for humans and all other mammals.
In fact, our body produces a form of hypochlorous acid to fight infection. This is what our white blood cells do!
Hypochlorous acid can be used to kill all sorts of harmful substances: listeria, norovirus, salmonella, influenza, MRSA…the list goes on and on.
Electrolyzed water has been used widely in the industrial space for a long time, including to clean produce. It is an excellent alternative to chlorine washing and is much healthier. It hasn’t been used much in homes in the past because of the expense of the equipment required to make it. It also has a short shelf life before it isn’t as effective anymore, which makes selling it in stores difficult to do, too.
However, technology is improving! There are more and more appliances available on the market now at reasonable prices to be able to get this amazing cleaner for home use.
Force of Nature is one of these appliances, and it is one of my favorite home safety/cleaning/health investments of all time. It is a small appliance that allows you to create electrolyzed water to use for anything you wish; cleaning, produce washing, sanitizing your sink & counters, deodorizing, lifting stains…
You can read my review on Force of Nature here to learn more information. It’s a must have for any house looking to reduce their use of harsh chemicals. It has many other uses that people may not readily think of, too.
While I love Force of Nature, you can also look for other appliances that make electrolyzed water, too.
Steps to Cleaning Your Produce With Electrolyzed Water
Step 1: Rinse off any dirt. Shake off excess water
Step 2: Spray your electrolyzed water liberally on your produce. Allow it to sit for 30 seconds to one minute. Alternatively, you could pour it in a bowl and roll your produce in the solution.
Step 3: Rinse well & dry.
If you aren’t sure you wish to purchase anything to make your own hypochlorous acid, here is another method of produce cleaning.
Wash In Vinegar
Vinegar (also a key ingredient in making electrolyzed water at home) can be another way to remove pathogens.
You can make your own solution in a spray bottle with one part vinegar to three parts water. Spray on your produce and rinse.
Just note that vinegar can be harsh, especially if not diluted properly, and could possibly alter the taste and texture of some of your produce.
But it is a safe and effective way to clean your fruits and veggies and would be just as effective as store-bought vegetable washes.
Do We Really Need To Clean Produce This Thoroughly?
Many experts will tell you that a simple rinse in water is just fine for cleaning your produce. And most of the time, it certainly is. I clean a great deal of my produce with just water.
However, given the increasing concern regarding leafy greens, I have personally started cleaning all of my store-bought lettuce with electrolyzed water. Maybe that’s overkill, but I figure I’m not hurting anything by trying! It’s the least I can do to keep my family safe.
I highly recommend you look into it if you want to have access to something in your home that is completely safe, yet extremely effective against germs.
What do you do to clean your produce? Are you concerned about the rising number of E. Coli and other outbreaks? Let me know in the comments!