How many people handle your produce between the field where its grown, how it's processed and when you eat it? Estimates range from 4 to 20 people. The Food and Drug Administration says fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, and poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation, or through inadequate storage.
Proper washing is important in keeping fruits and vegetables safe and fresh to eat. The FDA recommends you wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water, and scrub firm produce with a clean, soft brush to remove dirt and bacteria from crevices (soaking in a sink filled water can redeposit bacteria on the produce). Wash produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. Wash your cutting board and countertop with hot soapy water both before and after handling fresh produce.
There is some conflicting information in the literature about whether or not to use soap or a produce wash. Some of the concern centers around changing the taste of the food or the residue left by a produce wash. Green Mountain liquid soap contains no additives, preservatives, or fragrances of any kind, and rinses very clean. The unscented All Vegetable formulation of the bar soap has been certified by the National Sanitary Foundation (NSF) on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration as food grade, Category H-1, as safe for incidental contact with food. This soap currently is used on the equipment lines of plants that manufacture plastic bottles to hold food, such as milk jugs.