Food Safety and Hygiene

Food Safety and Hygiene

Last week I had a very interesting discussion with my client when I told him to peel the skin of apples before he eats it. His eyes popped out saying  ‘what kind of a nutritionist says throw away the peel that is a good source of fiber?’ In return I asked him what is he planning to give his body more?, Safe nutrition or germs, pesticides, wax and colors? And for fiber you can increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables instead of putting your health at risk.

My choice would certainly be organic food grown in a ‘perfect world’….or If  I grow them myself in my kitchen garden. But do I have time? NO…

So here is the deal. I try and buy apples, grapes, peaches, strawberries, greens, celery, nectarines, bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes from organic store as these fruits and vegetables tend to carry a lot of pesticides on their skin. And rest of the vegetables I buy from any store. Organic or not, if I didn’t grow the produce myself or get it from family friends who are trusted farmers, I always make sure to carefully wash all produce that we eat. This is especially important with non-organic produce, but I even wash organic store-bought produce as well.

Homemade fruit and vegetable washes are effective at removing residue from produce and also help preserve the fridge-life of these foods since bacteria that may cause decay is removed. To be most effective, different vegetables call for different methods of washing, but three simple and inexpensive recipes will clean virtually every type of produce.

How to Wash Most Fruits & Vegetables:  

For most produce with a skin place the fruits and veggies in a large bow filled with water and add 1 cup of white vinegar OR apple cider vinegar. Let soak for up to an hour, scrub gently and rinse. Dry fully before returning to the fridge.

How to Wash Lettuces & Greens:

Lettuces and greens are more delicate and more difficult to wash. They also are more likely to contain insects or other little visitors. For greens, dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of water and add the juice of one lemon. Spray this on the greens, let sit for about a minute, and then add them to a sink of diluted vinegar water. Soak for about 15 minutes, rinse in cool water and dry completely or use a salad spinner helps before putting in the fridge.

How to Wash Berries:

Berries are perhaps the most difficult to clean because they are so delicate and take on the flavour of anything they come in contact with (vinegar flavoured blueberries on pancakes or ice crème, anyone?). Try diluted fresh lemon juice to clean berries.  Mix 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and spray on the berries and then soak in fresh water for about 15 minutes. Dry completely before storing in the fridge!

Other tips that one must follow to prevent health related risks:

  • Cooking and serving utensils to be of stainless steel. Ceramic layered cooking utensils can be used to cut down the quantity of cooking oil in food.
  • Avoid Teflon and any other chemical non-stick coatings. Teflon is a coating manufactured using perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is considered “a likely human carcinogen.” When heated, cookware coated with Teflon and other synthetic non-stick surfaces emits fumes that can potentially sicken people.  Over heating of non-stick pans and any scratching or chipping of the materials can cause these chemicals to be released.
  • Avoid plastic whenever possible when it comes to food and beverage.  Hard plastics can contain BPA. If you must use plastic in the kitchen:
  • Choose BPA-Free, PVC-free plastic
  • Do not heat in the microwave (“microwave-safe” only means that the plastic won’t actually melt – the extreme heat of the oven will increase transference of chemicals).
  • Do not store fatty, greasy or acidic foods in plastic.
  • Do not use scratched, badly worn or cloudy plastics for your food and beverages.
  • Hand-wash plastics to avoid wear and tear.
  • Avoid hard plastic melamine dishes.  They are made by combining the chemical melamine with formaldehyde (which is considered a known human carcinogen.
  • Use caution with aluminium cookware.  Aluminium is a soft, highly reactive metal and can migrate in measurable amounts into food when used for cooking. Aluminium has been linked to brain disorders as well as behavioural abnormalities and is considered a toxic substance.
  • Store perishable and non- perishable food items separately.
  • All raw material procured needs to be checked for expiry date mentioned on it and before opening the packet to prevent food poisoning.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within 2 hours. Do not leave them sitting out at room temperature.
  • Never place food on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood unless the cutting board has been thoroughly washed.
  • Always thaw frozen food in the refrigerator. Never defrost food at room temperature on the countertop.

I am sure all of us are concerned about what we eat is safe. So, if you have more tips on washing fruits and vegetables please share!