Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million people become ill from food contamination. To avoid this, many dietitians say washing produce thoroughly with a vinegar solution can help kill bacteria and ensure it is safe for consumption.
Walk into any grocery these days and it's more than likely you'll find multiple commercial fruit and veggie washes displayed between baskets of kumquats and kiwis, all promising to save your family by making produce safe for consumption. Stop! Before you spending even a few bucks for a fancy container with glowing promises, consider that you can make your own highly effective fruit and vegetable wash for just pennies.
While commercial produce cleaning products might sound great, check the ingredients and you'll likely find an ironically high number of chemicals with a price tag to match.
Mixing up your own fruit and vegetable wash is cheap and easy -- plus you know exactly what's in it.
FRUIT & VEGGIE WASH
1 cup cold tap water
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Mix these ingredients together, and pour them into a spray bottle. Spray your produce two to three times. Let it rest for two minutes, and then rinse it off with more tap water. This mixture stores well, so do not worry at all should you want to double the recipe.
According to the Colorado State University Extension, blending lemon juice with the vinegar and water makes it more effective by increasing the acidity. This can help kill a greater number of bacteria including E. coli. Washing berries with a vinegar solution offers additional benefits: It prevents them from molding within a few days of purchase. When shopping, choose unbruised and undamaged produce.
SMOOTH-SKINNED PRODUCE. Tomatoes, apples and grapes are examples of smooth-skinned produce. Spray these types of produce with the above spray, thoroughly coating them. Allow the produce to rest for 30 seconds before rubbing the skin with your hands and not an abrasive scrubber. Rinse under cold running water to remove all vinegar taste. This prevents you from breaking the skin before the fruit or vegetable is completely clean, which could expose the flesh to contaminants.
ROUGH FIRM-SKINNED PRODUCE. Broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, melons, potatoes, berries and other produce without a smooth or soft surface are slightly more difficult to clean. They require soaking in a mixture that is 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. This ensures the acidic blend kills all bacteria. For heads of cabbage or other leafy greens, separate the leaves for thorough cleaning. Use your sink as the container for the water and vinegar mixture and you will have plenty of room. After soaking (just a few minutes are necessary), scrub gently and rinse under cold running water.
One last thing: Don't assume you can skip washing produce that has an inedible rind like oranges, melons, squash and pineapple. Cutting or peeling the produce can transfer contaminants to the edible flesh.
Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.