Christine Bruhn, PhD is the Director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California, Davis where she earned her doctorate. Dr. Bruhn has a special interest and passion for safe food handling practices. Her major area of research is in consumer attitudes and perceptions of food quality, safety and wholesomeness. Dr. Bruhn travels widely and is a sought after speaker at both academic and government conferences on food safety and food handling and food processing technologies . She currently serves on several education and advisory panels including the Food and Drug Administration's Risk Communication Advisory Group. In addition, she is often contacted by members of the media when questions of food safety make the news, especially in her home state of California. Along with her interest in making sure everyone knows “How to determine when your food had gone bad,” she is an avid cook and enjoys sharing practical food safety tips with her family and friends. For more information on food safety and nutrition questions, please visit IFIC.org.
How to Properly Wash Your Produce
Christine Bruhn, Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis, discusses proper rinsing of your produce.
Christine Bruhn: I am Christine Bruhn, University of California, Davis, Department of Food Science and Technology. How can you tell if your produce is bad or not? How can you make sure you are keeping it safe by properly washing it?
I am going to illustrate some of the washing techniques that can be used so that you are enjoying a healthy and delicious product and you also have increased your chances that's going to be safe for you and your family. Washing is a very important step and first, you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds under hot water, being really careful that you get between your hands, on the back of your hands, under any rings or jewellery and also around your fingernails. This isn't the full 20 seconds, but we are going to be doing a camera 20 seconds today. You also need to wash your sink very thoroughly and wash any utensils that you are going to be using. If you are having a green salad or spinach and you buy the pre-bagged mixes, your next step is to cut the top and dump it into the bag because this has already been triple washed with chlorinated water at the processing facilities and you can't get it much cleaner than that. In fact, it is recommended that the consumers and even restaurants don't rewash because of the possibility of contamination in a private home kitchen. So if this is what you are using, you are done now. Make sure you are clean, your bowl is clean and there you go. If you are starting off however, with the fresh lettuce or the fresh spinach, then you remove a piece of it and you are going to open it up and you are going to rub under cool water, rub along the stems, again being sure that you get both sides of the product and rub gently with your hands so that you help dislodge any dirt or any material that might be on the lettuce. Shake off the extra moisture, you can put it in a clean colander or you can put it directly on a single use, clean paper towel and dab off any remaining moisture. It will still have some water on it, but if by chance there is any harmful bacteria, you are removing that when you remove the water. So do this with all your lettuce leaves and then tear it and put it into your salad bowl. If you have something that's smooth and round then you can rub that under your hand, under the water just as we did with the lettuce. You are going to go over all the surfaces and you are going to want to rub gently and the water can be cool. I have removed the little price tag because we don't want to eat that. Then you can put it on a clean cutting board, one that you scrubbed with a soap and water or better still, one that you have had in your dishwasher to undergo that dishwashing cycle and then it is all nice and clean. Once more, use a paper towel, single use, to dry it and that further reduces any potential bacteria that could be on here. So follow that procedure for tomatoes as well as for the apples. Now what if you have something that's really delicate like strawberries? Well, the recommendation is to put it in a clean colander and rinse it there. You can rinse it in these containers, they do have holes so the water can run out, but if you see a little bit of dirt and maybe seeds at the bottom, you are contaminating all the other strawberries with those seeds. So it is really considered best to put it into the colander and rinse it with the cool running water then. Let these dry or use a paper towel or even a spinner and get the excess water that way. Only you do this rinsing just before you are ready to eat the product because when you have added moisture, you have given bacteria just what they love and they can grow more. So you don't rinse your strawberries when you first bring them home from the supermarket or the farmer's market. You rinse them just before you are ready to eat them. So you rinse them and then if you want, use a knife or your hands to remove the green part after the rinsing. Finally, the most complex of these items to wash is the melon. Now melons may look clean, but you have got to remember that they were growing on the earth. So you want to be sure that you wash them. They might not have been washed very often or sufficiently before you receive them. So don't pay attention to whether it is free or absent of dirt, wash it anyway. Again, use the cool running water. We don't recommend soap even for something like melon because soap can be absorbed into the plant tissue and you don't want to eat soap residues. So soap is not necessary. Plain water is just great. Use a clean scrub brush and rub with the scrub brush over all the surface. So with the magic of television, I have washed all of this product and once more, we will be drying it with a single use, clean paper towel. Again, not a dish towel, not a dishcloth because you don't know what else that dishcloth has been used for. Only use it if it is the first time used it and it has come out of a washing system that used bleach. Bleach will help destroy any bacteria. So now we have got your melon, lay it down on your clean cutting board and slice it with a clean knife. If by chance, I had not removed the bacterias sufficiently as I should have on the edges, you still have to be careful with your melon. Of course, you will eat the inside, but if there are any leftovers, don't leave it out on the kitchen counter, don't stack the leftovers. Wrap this gently in a plastic wrap and then put it in the refrigerator. Keeping it cold will keep the bacteria from growing very rapidly and will extend the time when you can enjoy this product. So after it has been sliced once, you should try to eat it within two or three days and enjoy. These are all the ways that we keep our foods safe so we very enjoy the food and enjoy life. Next we are going to be talking about how to store foods in your refrigerator to maintain safety.