The importance of washing fruit and vegetables

There are two risks commonly associated with eating unwashed fruit and veg: pesticides and bacterial contamination.

Produce can become infected while it is grown and after it has been harvested. In particular, poor hygiene, animal contact and harmful substances in water or soil are risks during farming. After they have been harvested, incorrect storage or cross-contamination during food preparation can increase your chances of becoming ill as well.

Another consideration is the wax fruit such as apples, pears, plums and avocados are coated with. Wax is applied to improve the appearance of fruit and extend its shelf-life, but it’s not always easily absorbed by the body and can prove harmful to the small intestines and colon.

How can this affect your health?

Put simply, if we don’t clean our fruit and vegetables properly, we are risking our own health. A study from the US Centre for Disease Control found that up to 46% of food-related diseases were from fruit, vegetables and nuts. E-coli, salmonella and listeria are all commonly found in our produce and can cause food poisoning if we don’t treat them properly. The ‘vomiting bug’ norovirus is also associated with vegetables and can lead to days of chronic illness if we come into contact with it.

What can you do?

One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk from your fruit and vegetables is to buy organic; the fewer chemicals your produce comes into contact with, the better.

However, if buying organic fruit and vegetables isn’t something you can do regularly, make sure you wash the produce you buy thoroughly before eating. Simply rinse them under a running tap and rub them underwater using a brush. Wax on fruit such as apples can be removed by dunking them into boiling water and wiping them with a cloth.

Remember to wash between stalks and leaves too – many people forget about this and just rinse the outside, but bugs and dirt can easily hide between the leaves of leafy vegetables such as kale and lettuce. Spring onions also have long straws which can trap bugs and dirt.

To avoid cross-contamination, make sure you use different utensils and wash your hands thoroughly before handling any raw food, including vegetables. You should also keep raw produce separate from foods with are ready to eat, such as cooked meats and cheese.