Wash (and RE-WASH) your Vegetables!

Wash (and RE-WASH) your Vegetables!

Recently the CDC documented a nationwide food contamination with an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that affected cantaloupes. Never in all of my years have I heard of so much food poisonings as I have heard of in the last couple of years. We have been afraid to eat spinach, onions, lettuce, meats have been recalled, and now cantaloupes. What could be next? And why?

I was talking with my brother the other day and we were reminiscing about how in the 1970’s you saw and heard the slogans,“Buy American” and “Made in the USA.” Have you looked at your fruits and vegetable labels lately? So much of what we buy now comes from Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, and Chili. We live in a global world and our food comes from all over the world. We want to eat better but sometimes even the choices we have are limited.

We all know and have been taught we need to wash our fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them to get the dirt and pesticides off. The Environmental Working Group is a not-for-profit organization who works to protect the public and the environment. They performed nearly 51,000 test for pesticides from the years 2000 to 2005 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and The Food and Drug Administration. The following is a list of the “best” and “worst” produce based on their research:

The 12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables.

Peaches                 Strawberries             Pears                   Lettuce

Apples                   Cherries                      Spinach               Bell Peppers

Nectarines           Celery                          Potatoes             Imported Grapes

The 12 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables.

Onions                   Sweet corn                Cabbage               Mangoes

Broccoli                Asparagus                  Avocados             Kiwi

Eggplant               Sweet Peas                Pineapple            Bananas

The National Institutes of Health stated that each year 48 million people in the United States get sick from contaminated food. It is obvious that number is climbing and deaths are increasing. Bacteria is a common cause of food borne illness. Symptoms are usually not seen until twelve (12) to seventy two (72) hours after eating the contaminated food. Symptoms include an upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration.

Remember that your fruits and vegetables may look clean when you buy them but you can not always see the dirt and you certainly can not see the pesticides or chemicals. By the time our food gets to the market, it was handled by several different pairs of hands in the fields or orchards. Then our food goes to the warehouse and then on to the grocery store where it is handled again. How many times did you pick up a tomato to inspect it and decide to put it back because that one did not look like the perfect one to take home? Think about how many other people picked up the same tomato and thought the same thing you did. Did they wash their hands before doing it? Most likely not.

I had food poisoning once on a plane returning from another country. That was no fun and very embarrassing! Instead of having three (3) restrooms, the plane was down to only two (2) because I could not come out of one. That was the longest trip of my life! I was fortunate in that it only took me a week to recover.

My heart breaks to know that over 48 million Americans experience this a year. More alarming is the number of deaths that are occurring. Consumers, we need to become informed and wash our fruits and vegetables longer. Read the labels and try to buy locally grown items from farmers we can trust. Hopefully by doing these simple steps, we can stay healthy, keep the death numbers down from food poisoning, keep our local farmers in business and create more jobs.


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