I could give you the scientific names of the dirt, insecticides, herbicides, manures, bacteria, and viruses that might be there. I say ‘might’ because depending on where they’re grown, it varies. That being said, most of us don’t want to know. We as the human race, just want to know it’s available and ready to eat. Pretty much, anyway.
Where does our produce come from? The easy answer is, from all over the world. This is time-dependent also. Even California and Georgia can’t produce all we eat 24/7, 12-months out of the year. Cantalope in January could come from somewhere in Central or South America. Grapes certainly do. While handing out washed fruit samples at Hy-Vee supermarkets, I was pretty amazed to see those grapes coming from Chili, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and others. It wasn’t until early June that I started seeing grapes coming from California. And any time of the year, you’ll find apples from New Zealand. Peppers from Spain or South Korea. Pineapples from the Caribbean islands. Along with raspberries from Honduras. Cranberries, interestingly enough, come primarily from 5-states here in the good ol’ United States.
So we should be asking; who washes this stuff and what are they using to wash it?
Let’s start with cranberries. Dry harvest isn’t done the majority of the time. Just like the OceanSpray advertising, it’s about flooded bogs and people in chest waders. What isn’t happening is any sort of meaningful washing that will remove the oil-based herbicides and insecticides. And this is where point-of-use cleaning, in your kitchen, has to take place. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of what wasn’t done by the processor.
Grapes are next. I’ve seen absolutely filthy grapes coming from some of the South American countries. Grocery stores get grapes in boxes and they put them in the consumer-sized bags you see. The produce guys talk about how dirty their hands are after just one case. This saves the cost at the processor level but does nothing to clean the grapes. Again, as a ‘raw’ agriculture product, the cleaning is up to you. Unless you actively wash your grapes in a product specifically made to clean produce, the pesticides and dirt are likely to still be there.
Tomatoes, apples, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, and a lot of stuff that sits in storage for a while, are covered with wax to help retain moisture. This is good for the wholesalers and brokers who may hold in climate-controlled storage. But it does nothing for us who eat them because the pesticides are beneath the wax.
And then there’s the bacteria and viruses often found on the exterior surfaces. This part gets kind of tricky. If the organisms are inside the product, washing the outside doesn’t do anything to remove them. That’s accomplished by cooking to an internal temperature of at least 135 deg F. But if it’s on the outside, it can be washed off with a soap made for produce cleaning.
Life’s Pure Balance Fruit & Veggie wash will take it off. Use it by following the directions and enjoy these products the way they were meant to be eaten: clean and free of dirt, pesticides, and microscopic things clinging to the surface.
Bill Adler is an expert in food safety, foodborne illnesses, and the foodservice 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.