Do You Need to Wash Fruit and Vegetables?
March 17, 2014
By Marita Tillerás
Do You Need to Wash Fruit and Vegetables? - Photo by Odan Jaeger
My mother always asked if I had washed the fruit I decided to eat when coming home from the grocery store. The lazy side of me lied and said yes. Every time.

When meeting my boyfriend he introduced me to it again, and at first I may have lied, but then I decided to do some research.

Why is it that we keep being told to wash our fresh produce before eating it? Does it make any difference in terms of the nutritional value? Will not washing fruit and vegetables make us sick?

Why Should You Wash Fruit and Vegetables?

The general rule is to wash all fresh produce to get rid of bacteria, dirt, dust and viruses. Some substances are added for the produce to stay fresh longer, some to delay the ripening process, some to prevent mould and other microorganisms, and some to make the produce appear more delicate and shiny.

Scientists claim that holding the produce under cold tap water for at least 30 seconds, or soaking it in cold water whilst rubbing it lightly, is just as efficient as expensive cleaning products designed to get rid of the bacteria.

Generally, bacteria and germs found in dirt will not affect healthy people, but if certain pathogens end up on the produce, and we eat them, we can get sick. These pathogens include E.coli and Salmonella. We should also be aware of Clostridium and Bacillus, which both produce spores that can survive in dirt, and thus can make us sick.

How Can Unwashed Fruit and Vegetables Make You Sick?

CSIRO Food Microbiologist Cathy Moir states that sometimes only a small consumption of microorganisms is required to infect the human body and cause food poisoning.

As with anything, controversy exists over the risk to our health from pesticides. Different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including developmental disorders, hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects and brain toxicity.

Improved Regulation of Pesticides Needed in Australia

Even though Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) claim strict guidelines are in place to ensure that the chemical residues are below the international standards, several health groups are calling for improved regulation of pesticides. Consumer watchdog, CHOICE, says that there are currently more than 80 pesticides still being used here despite being banned overseas.

If pesticides do concern you, limit your exposure by buying locally and organic, and by peeling or washing your fruit and vegetables, rather than reducing your intake of fresh produce.

Remember, some fruit and vegetables absorb chemicals such as chlorine from our water, particularly tomatoes, so be sure to always wash these fruits and vegetables in filtered water.

Marita Tilleras is a Norwegian third year media student at La Trobe University, a personal trainer at Goodlife Preston and a passionate health blogger. She is a health and fitness fanatic, and can be found in the gym most days, unless it is beach weather. You can read Marita's blog at cherishyourbody.wordpress.com and contact her at mtilleras@gmail.com.
"Scientists claim that holding the produce under cold tap water for at least 30 secs, or soaking it in cold water whilst rubbing it lightly, is just as efficient as expensive cleaning products designed to remove bacteria."