Should You Wash Ready-to-Eat Produce?

The short answer from a registered dietitian
pre washed lettuce

Q: Should you wash ready-to-eat produce?

A: No, you do not need to wash ready-to-eat produce. In fact, rewashing can increase your risk of getting sick because your produce may become contaminated with bacteria from your sink, countertop, cutting boards or other kitchen surfaces.

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However, you should always wash produce that does not come prewashed before eating it. This is true even for fruits and vegetables that have a rind you plan to peel like watermelon or cucumber. Otherwise, you could spread bacteria and other contaminants when you slice the fruit or vegetable.

Here are some washing tips:

  • Use a brush and water to scrub fruits with a hard rind like watermelon, honeydew and other melons.
  • Wash delicate fruits like berries under fast running water. Friction from the water helps remove bacteria and pesticides.
  • Remove the outer layer of leaves from cabbage and lettuce.
  • Rinse herbs in cold water and dry with paper towels.
  • A produce wash can be expensive, use salt water as a cheap and effective alternative. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt with ½ cup of water in a spray bottle and spray the vegetables. Then, rub and rinse well under water. Afterwards, dry the produce with a paper towel. One study comparing tap water, diluted vinegar, produce spray, and salt water found that salt water was best at removing pesticides.

—Registered dietitian April Verdi, MPH, RD, LD

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