Wash your veggies

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 28th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most people know to wash their hands and carefully clean after handling raw chicken to avoid salmonella poisoning. But should you go the same pains when handling raw carrots or apples?


The Center for Science in the Public Interest has found that more people are now contracting salmonella and other foodborne illnesses from fruits and vegetables than raw meat or eggs, in part because people aren’t properly washing their produce.

Most of the produce in U-S grocery stores comes from Latin America, where animal manure is commonly used as fertilizer. Bacteria like E. coli and salmonella can spread from the manure to the produce and then to your home.

Nearly thirty-thousand people got sick after eating or handling contaminated produce between 1990 and 2003. Chicken caused half that number of illnesses.

The center’s report says the rough texture of most fruits and veggies makes a comfortable home for bacteria, which can stick to the surface. That’s why officials say it’s important to wash produce under running water before eating it.

Cooking kills bacteria too, but unlike chicken, fruits and vegetables aren’t always cooked before they’re eaten. Melons, lettuce and green onions have all caused salmonella outbreaks in recent years.

But center officials urge people not to avoid fruits and vegetables, which are needed to maintain a healthy diet. They are also asking the government to better protect farm-grown food.

Until then remember, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash it.