In order to prevent food-borne illness, the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, encourages students and faculty to wash fruits and veggies with clean water. The washing is done in an effort to remove toxic pesticides or other bacteria. Not taking these steps can lead to harmful and possibly fatal consequences.
Sociology major, Katie Greenwell, said,”My fruits and veggies are always washed. It is disgusting to eat unwashed food.”
Not everyone has the same belief. The proof lies in statistics kept by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA Web site stated, “Nearly 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the U.S. are caused by food borne illnesses.”
When produce is brought home from the supermarket it should be washed because it gets touched by many people. Even more sobering is the notion that fruit grown on the ground could be near a dirty irrigation channel or be exposed to solid fertilizer.
Jane Weaver, Health Editor for MSNBC, stated, “When we go through a supermarket, if you ever watched people, everyone likes to squeeze and touch the produce. It’s most likely had contact with twenty to thirty people’s hands. Statistically, half of all people don’t wash their hands when they leave the bathroom. And keep in mind that produce has been pulled out of the ground and [has been] sitting in fertilizer. In fertilizer, there is manure. You could be exposed to hepatitis A or salmonella.”
The food borne illness can be caused by microscopic germs called pathogens.
Three of the most common pathogens responsible for food borne illness are Salmonella, Listeria, and Taxoplasma. The FDA Web site stated, “Approximately 1,500 people will die each year as a result of these pathogens.”
They all produce similar symptoms which usually last about 5-7 days. The symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and severe dehydration.
Washing fruit or vegetables can reduce the likelihood that sickness will occur. Yet, washing food alone may not produce safe results.
In conjunction with the FDA, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Web site stated, “Washing can decrease, but not eliminate the bacteria; therefore, consumers can do little to actually protect themselves.”
The FDA recommends not consuming raw sprouts such as alfalfa, bean, clover or radish. These sprouts, when eaten in their raw state, can be especially dangerous. The FDA urges anyone who wants to eat them to cook them well before ingesting.
Elderly, young children, pregnant women and those with a disease weakening the immune system are especially vulnerable to bacteria found on produce goods.
The FDA encourages scrubbing firm produce like melons with a produce brush. Make sure to wash the items prior to slicing them, as the knife can drag the contaminants to the inside.
“I almost always wash fruit before eating it,” said U of L student and sociology major, Amanda James, “Unless it is a fruit that gets peeled before consumption.”
Eating fruit after peeling its skin can help reduce the likelihood of ingesting harmful substances. If a vegetable or piece of fruit is especially dirty, washing might not be enough to get it clean, so then you could peel it. For example, carrots sometimes need scraping or peeling to remove soil.
The FDA “does not recommend washing fruits and veggies with soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes.” These products can actually be absorbed into the fruits and veggies and are not meant for human consumption. There are some produce sprays which can be used; however water will work just as well.
Kit Barnes, a psychology major, said, “Of course I wash my fruit and vegetables! Even if it is just a quick run under some cold water it definitely gets washed.”
Though the CDC claims washing does not aid much in preventing food borne illness, washing the food we eat certainly is better than doing nothing.