Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Bookmark and Share

Scrubbing Veggies

By Martha McKenzie

Illustrated produce

How Should you wash produce?

For delicate produce, rinse under water to preserve the integrity of the fruit or vegetable. For firmer produce, such as apples, cucumber, and melons, scrub the surface under running water with a clean brush and then do a final rinse. Commercial fruit and vegetable washes are mostly water and haven’t been shown to be more effective than water alone.

Should you take extra care with some produce?

Rough surfaces like to capture pathogens. Use a produce brush to scrub fruits and vegetables and then clean the brush in the dishwasher. Certain foods—sprouts, herbs like parsley and cilantro, berries, and cantaloupe melons—are more at risk for becoming contaminated with pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Scrub the outside of a cantaloupe before cutting into it with a knife. Also, produce that is eaten raw presents an increased risk—cooking produce lowers the risk.

What other precautions should you take when preparing food?

Use common sense: Wash hands before handling produce. Don’t hold a baby while preparing food. Don’t handle meat and produce in the same spot or with the same equipment.

Juan Leon


Juan Leon, associate professor, Rollins School of Public Health

Which is safer, eating out or eating at home?

Eating at home can lower your risk. When you eat in is when you have the most control. When you eat out you lose control not only of the produce being used but all the other steps of people handling and cooking for you, the water, the cleanliness. There are a lot more things that can go wrong.

Email the editor