Keep It Clean: Washing Raw Foods

You may wonder whether you need to wash raw foods before you prepare them. While it’s true that certain foods should be washed before they’re eaten, washing other types of foods isn’t recommended. Learn the do’s and don’ts of washing raw food.

Do

  • Wash your hands with soapy hot water before and after handling food.
  • After removing damaged and bruised areas, thoroughly wash produce with cool, clean running water.
  • Scrub firm produce, such as potatoes and cucumbers, using a clean produce brush, and rinse with cool water.
  • The fruits and vegetables you plan to peel need to be washed before peeling, as bacteria can easily spread from rinds and peels while you’re cutting.
  • Soak harder-to-clean produce, such as broccoli and lettuce, in cold, clean water for one to two minutes. (Fragile produce, such as raspberries, should be put in a colander and sprayed with water.)
  • Dry produce with a clean paper towel or clean cloth after you’ve washed it to further remove bacteria.

Don’t

  • You don’t need to wash packaged produce labeled “pre-washed,” “washed,” or “ready-to-eat”—this produce has already been washed.
  • Don’t use detergent or soap to wash produce.
  • Don’t wash raw meat, poultry or seafood. Doing so could spread bacteria to kitchen surfaces, utensils, and other foods.
  • Commercial eggs are washed before sale, so there is no need to wash them before you cook. Similar to meat, poultry and seafood, washing eggs before preparation may lead to cross-contamination.

For more information on safe food handling practices, please visit FoodSafety.gov or your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Adapted and excerpted from:

A. Simonne, “Fresh Produce: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers” (FCS8737), UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 04/2013).

D. Van, “Check Your Steps! Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often to Keep Your Family Safer from Food Poisoning,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Blog (07/2011).

Clean,” Foodsafety.gov (Accessed 10/2015).

Raw Produce: Selecting and Serving it Safely,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (rev. 09/2015).

J. Bolton, A. Bushway, K. Crowe and M. El-Begearmi,Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables” (4336), University of Maine Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Cooperative Extension (Accessed 10/2015).

Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety?U.S. Department of Agriculture (rev. 07/2013).

Photo Credits: Zdenka Darula/iStock/Thinkstock