In ServSafe training, food safety certified professionals learn that washing raw fruits and vegetables before serving helps prevent the spread of food borne-illness. We all know that plants grow in the dirt, and dirt contains bacteria that can be harmful if consumed. Some farms utilize fertilizers and pesticides to yield a larger crop, and residues of these compounds may still exist on the surface of fruits and vegetables. We’d like to suggest that restaurants develop standards that require all produce to be washed before any use.
Washing of Produce and Food Safety Certified Standards
Even if you plan to cook your fruits or vegetables, there may be a chance that pathogens on their surface can spread. During preparation, they will inevitably come into contact with knives, prep surfaces and hands that will then go on to touch other items in your kitchen.
Produce ingredients that often go unwashed include fruits and vegetables with peels or rinds. Some examples of these include:
- Carrots, beets and other root vegetables
- Oranges, pineapples and other tree fruits
- Thick-skinned squash such as pumpkins and butternut squash
During classes prepared for food safety certified managers, we’ve often been asked why we feel it’s necessary to wash these items before preparation; the customer will never eat the peels. Your knives and peelers can come into contact with contaminates on the surface of these ingredients and then become infected. The grooved surface of a cantaloupe, for example, contains many nooks and crevices for bacteria and remnants of fertilizer to reside. As you slice through the surface, your knife can pick up these microscopic particles and spread them to the meat of the fruit as your knife passes through. The same theory can be applied to a peeler that picks up contaminates while root vegetables are being prepared.
Washing all produce is just one small way to prevent food-borne illness, and should never be overlooked. Can you think of any small, but necessary, procedures you feel gets forgotten far too often.