Misplaced Trust and How to Clean Contaminated Food

By Bill Adler, MPH, RS
Technical Food Safety Consultant

There is a lot of trust in the food industry. We trust our food is safe, clean and healthy for us. But, we all know, mistakes happen. At the time of this writing, there is a national recall for salad mix produced by a company called Fresh Express. They packaged iceberg lettuce, carrots and red cabbage and sent it to a variety of supermarkets and grocery stores in 8 states. The organism in the mix is a parasite called Cyclospora and its nasty! Thompson International onions are linked to a Salmonella outbreak in 34 states and 59 people have been hospitalized. Make no mistake, mistakes do happen. The trick is to keep them from happening to us!

In winter, at least in the Midwest, we don’t grow a lot of fruit or vegetables. This is s-l-o-w-l-y changing as more indoor ‘farming’ is done. Minnesota is sort of in the middle of states doing indoor vegetable gardening but even then, close to 70% of the produce we eat is coming from countries other than the US. A lot of what we consume comes from Central and South America. But, a very high percentage of berries consumed the world come from China. It pays to read labels when shopping. On top of that, about 30% of the honey we consume also comes from foreign sources, including Argentina and Switzerland.

Grocery stores are not required to wash produce before putting it out for us unless they cut it up or somehow process it for the ready-to-eat shopper. Cleaning produce is the consumer’s job. Mistakes on the outside of the produce can be removed by washing with something that gets into the surface pores and lifts it off. Or dissolves it. Or grabs it and is then rinsed away. Be sure to use Earth’s Natural Fruit and Vegetable Wash to clean all of your produce. Mistakes in the form of bacteria and parasites INSIDE the product can only be made safe by cooking.

Covid-19 isn’t doing anybody any favors. We all have to eat, so most of us go to a grocery store every week. What hasn’t changed in all of this is how people pick the products they’re going to take home. If you stand back and watch, you’ll see the amount of handling everything gets before it goes home with someone. Peaches and nectarines, apples and tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers, cabbage and onions, anything unbagged gets touched multiple times before you choose to take it home. We know from studies done in Minnesota, 70% of men don’t adequately wash their hands after using the restroom. Nobody washes their steering wheels. The cellphone is just as gross. And then those hands touch produce you’re going to eat.

Mistakes are made all the time. Almost none of this contamination is intentional. But not washing produce protects no one. Washing your fruit and veggies with Earth’s Natural Fruit and Vegetable Wash will ensure you’re eating clean produce.

Bill Adler is an expert in food safety, foodborne illnesses, and the food service inspection industry. He has conducted training for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) teaching local, state, and federal disease investigators as well as working with laboratory specialists and epidemiologists. Bill has worked extensively with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to perform food service inspections and train local and state public health employees.