(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 30) When consumers wash fresh produce at home, fruit and vegetable washes may work better than water at protecting them from certain diseases on certain commodities. But in general, no solution works better than water, according to a new study.
And one of the study’s authors said that, with the possible exception of people who have compromised immune systems, consumers are better off sticking with water.
The study only considered methods of cleaning produce in consumers’ homes.
Researchers Jillian D. Fishburn, Yanjie Tang and Joseph F. Frank published their findings in the August edition of Food Protection Trends, a publication of the Des Moines, Iowa-based International Association For Food Protection.
Frank, a food science and technology professor at the University of Georgia, said that for people with compromised immune systems, some commercially-available washes could be worth the money, depending on the commodity it’s used on.
But he also said those people are probably better off not eating raw produce in the first place. And for everyone else, the best bet is still water.
“I really couldn’t recommend that consumers purchase any of these technologies,” he said. “I’m more comfortable saying, ‘Wash it in water and be done with it.’”
The researchers studied a variety of washes that use compounds including electrolyzed oxidizing water, ozone and commercial vegetable wash (food-grade soap). The researchers also washed produce in chlorine bleach, and with plain tap water.
The various washing methods were used to attempt to remove E. coli 0157, listeria and salmonella from tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, lettuce, spinach and green onions.
The study found that electrolyzed oxidizing water, or EO, proved more effective against some diseases than ozone, vegetable washes or tap water. But while it was more effective than chlorine for treating infected lettuce, EO was less effective than chlorine for treating cantaloupe.
“Some treatments were more effective than running tap water for specific pathogen-produce combinations, but no treatment produced greater reductions than tap water for all tested combinations,” the researchers wrote.