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Ask Martha

Washing produce helps eliminate health risks

Q. What is the best way to clean produce? Should I buy a fruit-and-vegetable wash?

A. Your efforts to remove pesticide residue and bacteria from fresh produce before eating it are worthwhile, but fruit-and-vegetable wash is not necessary to get your produce clean. The US Food and Drug Administration suggests washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling produce. Then gently rub produce with your fingers while holding it under running water. For sturdy items such as melons or root vegetables, use a clean scrub brush. You should even wash fruits and vegetables when you don’t eat the skin. Your peeler or knife can pick up bacteria from the surface and contaminate the flesh. Also remove any damaged or bruised areas, as illness-causing bacteria live and grow quite happily there. Throw away the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage. Soak leafy greens in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to loosen dirt.

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