From farm to table, estimates show about 20 people will touch your produce before you bring it home. That is a lot of opportunities for germs and microorganisms to spread. In fact the CDC estimates each year 1 in 6 people in the U.S. gets sick from food borne illness, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die.
One study on 4,600 different food borne illness outbreaks found 46% of cases were linked to produce, in particular leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Contaminated water from fecal matter resulted in norovirus being the responsible contaminant for the majority of illnesses.
A different study analyzing produce from countries around the world found 97 different bacteria, many of which are known opportunistic pathogens. The most abundant pathogens were E. coli which was found on 22% of vegetables and enterobacteriaceae which was found on 60% of fruits and 91% of vegetables.
To remove germs researches at Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found rinsing produce under tap water for one minute reduced pesticides and microorganisms by 90%. Water temperature did not change results but rubbing produce by hand was most beneficial.
Another study at the University of Florida found mixing vinegar with water removed E. coli and other bacteria and viruses by 95% on strawberries tested.
Experts and the FDA recommend washing produce to remove pesticides and microorganisms that could be harmful when consumed. It appears washing and rubbing produce under tap water is just as effective if not more effective than soap and vegetable washes. Diluted vinegar solutions are beneficial for removing additional bacteria and viruses.
Grilled Fruit Kabobs
150 calories per serving
8 wood or metal skewers (soak wood skewers at least 1 hour in water)
Assorted fruit cut into 1” cubes (pineapple, strawberries, banana, mango, etc.)
1 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
Skewer the assorted fruit and place on a medium heat grill about 2-3 minutes each side until slightly brown.
Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together yogurt and peanut butter until smooth. Serve as a dip with fruit kabobs for dessert.