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FoodHandler Safety Byte 4 TM
A Bath for Your Fruits & Vegetables?

The next time you are preparing fruits and vegetables, consider these new food safety options touted as produce rinses designed specifically to clean produce. Since most produce is considered "ready-to-eat," it is a prime vehicle for foodborne illness. Hence, it needs the utmost care and attention during preparation, including its washing. Since we use soap to remove germs from our hands, can we use soap when washing lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes? The FDA says not  to use any kind of hand soap or dish detergent when washing produce. Such soaps can leave behind residues, which will cause the produce to taste bad and may be harmful.

Why is it even necessary to wash produce? Some fruits and vegetables are coated with a food safe wax to preserve their shelf life. Sometimes dirt and residues can get caught on this wax coating. For those concerned that water is not enough to get rid of the trapped dirt and residue, two manufacturers have introduced new products designed specifically to wash produce. The jury is still out on how effective these new produce-cleaning products are. However, the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association believes that while produce rinses are unnecessary for the home consumer, they should be developed for the food service industry.

Proctor & Gamble is selling "FIT", which contains, among other natural ingredients, citric acid and grapefruit oil. There are 2 versions of FIT, one for home consumers (liquid) and one for restaurant use (powder). The household consumer product advertises its ability to remove wax, dirt, pesticide and other residues. While the household line is not proven to kill bacteria, P & G has data showing the professional line FIT will kill pathogenic bacteria and some viruses on cut produce. The company estimates restaurants will spend on average about $600 a year using FIT.

FIT's competitor is called "Victory," sold by Ecolab and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an antimicrobial wash for produce. Like FIT, Victory is designed to not leave any taste or odor on the produce, and costs approximately $1 per day. For more information on whether these rinses are products you want to try, log onto their web sites at www.tryfit.com and www.ecolab.com or contact your local health department.

Always a Final Rinse! Keep in mind, if you try either product, you must do a final running water rinse of the produce after using FIT or Victory. There is some disagreement as to whether these products actually extend the shelf life, even if they do remove the preservative wax. However the color of the produce, after use of either product, is said to be more vivid and the citric acid ingredient is a natural preservative.

Here's some minimal produce food safety guidance. Always wash your produce and be sure to rinse it in potable water after soaking and cleansing. Before washing, be sure to sanitize the sink in which the produce will be washed. Also be sure to sanitize the bowl, colander, knife, slicer and cutting board that will be used in preparation! (As an extra safety measure, wash your pre-packaged, cut salad mix with running tap water even if the package says it is pre-washed.) Always wash your hands and handle washed prepared produce with utensils or gloves only. Cover and refrigerate produce until served.

'Til next time,

Lacie Thrall
Safety Management Services
FoodHandler Inc.

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