Would rinsing lettuce have prevented the large E. coli outbreak caused by contaminated romaine lettuce this past spring? Likely not, because the E. coli organism that caused the outbreak is so hardy that only a few bacteria are necessary to cause illness, and E. coli is only destroyed through cooking or pasteurization.
Rinsing foods doesn’t always prevent foodborne illness and can sometimes can make the risks worse. Here’s what the science says about which foods you should run water over and why:
Rinse your rice. rice is grow in flooded paddy fields and naturally takes up arsenic in the water and soil. Soaking the rice overnight, then rinsing thoroughly, reduces arsenic by up to half. If you wish to flush out another 30 percent of the remaining arsenic, cook the rice in five parts water to one part rice. The largest risk exposure for arsenic exposure from rice is for those who eat it several times a day.
Rinse beans and grains. Rinsing grains removes debris and dirt. Rinsing is especially important for those suffering from celiac disease as accidental gluten exposure is more common than thought. Grains and beans may be grown near wheat, barley, rye; they may also be rotated with those gluten-containing crops, or they may get contaminated during processing, transport and packaging.
Wash your produce thoroughly. Soaking apples, tomatoes and lettuce in water and then rinsing thoroughly under running water significantly reduces the amount of microorganisms present. However, nothing makes produce completely harmless.
Don’t rinse our chicken. Rinsing raw chicken before cooking it is a bad idea, because it raises the risk of spreading dangerous bacteria found on raw poultry all over your kitchen. Any bacteria will be killed during the cooking process. Similar rules apply for all raw meat and eggs.
Use a hard brush. Scrub produce with a hard rind, or firm skin, such as potatoes, carrots, melons and apples. Make sure your washing water is at least 10 degrees colder than your produce to inhibit bacteria further. Patting dry with paper towels helps reduce bacterial load.
While our food supply is among the safest in the world, bad things sometimes happen. Most healthy people will completely recover from a foodborne illness with a short period of time.
Recipe of the Week:
It’s blueberry season and who doesn’t love a good Blueberry Crumb Bar. These bars are a great treat to have around for a healthy snack or dessert. This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.
Quote of the Week:
“We all only need three bones: a wishbone to “keep dreaming”, a funny bone “to have fun and laugh” and a backbone to “stay strong and stand for your ideals.”
- Dominique Fradin-Read