Experts give simple tips to avoid contamination from fresh produce

Health experts recommend washing all produce, even items labeled "pre-washed," to avoid getting sick from contamination.

Health experts recommend washing all produce, even items labeled "pre-washed," to avoid getting sick from contamination. (Photo: KWGN)

According to health experts, bacteria on fresh fruits and vegetables makes more people sick than contaminated meat.

But there is one simple thing families can do at home to protect themselves from becoming ill.

While the fresh produce at the store can look enticing, consider what it’s been through before placing it in the cart.

Dr.  Marisa Bunning, an associate professor at Colorado State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said when it comes to the grocery store, looks can be deceiving.

“Part of the problem is it all looks so good it doesn’t look like it needs to be washed, but we recommend consumers wash any fresh produce,” added Bunning.

Contamination could come from the processing plant and from exposure to germs in the store, according to health experts.

They said pesticide residue and bacteria can be washed away by using tap water for at least 20 seconds.

It may be surprising, but health experts recommended giving a good rinse to pre-washed, cut and bagged greens as well because the chopping process can contaminate the leaves.

Additionally, health experts advised washing avocados, cantaloupe or anything else with a peel before cutting it.

Banning said, “When you use that knife you can transfer any contamination or bacteria on the outside surface of the produce to the inside flesh

She also suggested washing hands before enjoying a freshly peeled banana.

Some foods don’t require such particularity, like potatoes because the heat from cooking them will kill any bacteria.

Though, because potatoes are root vegetables and come out of the ground, many people wash them anyway for peace of mind.

Always better safe than sorry, when it comes to keeping the family healthy.