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'Triple-Washed' Doesn't Always Mean Clean

Fine Cooking Issue 66

Lately I’ve found myself marveling at all the packaged, prepared fresh vegetables and fruits that are available in supermarkets these days. The good news about this trend is that there’s some evidence that packaged veggies retain their nutrients better than their counterparts sold out in the open. But phrases on the packaging, like “triple-washed in spring water” and “ready to eat,” encourage consumers to skip the step of washing the produce, and that’s bad news for two reasons.

First, triple-washed produce isn’t guaranteed to be free of dirt. I’ve washed grit out of many a bag of triple-washed spinach. Second, produce surfaces can carry bacteria that could make you ill, and the extra handling received by prepared produce increases the chances of contamination slipping in.

So whether it comes in a bag or not, and no matter how much of a hurry you’re in, make the time to rinse all fresh produce well in water. If it makes sense for the item you’re washing, scrub lightly with your hands or a vegetable brush. And don’t forget to wash items like melons and avocados that have inedible skins. Even though you don’t eat the skin, you do cut through it, and the knife blade can drag bacteria into the edible part.

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