Cleaning Fruits and Veggies with Vinegar

I just saw this really great thing on Pinterest about how plain old white vinegar is a great rinse for cleaning fruits and veggies. I figured I would do a little research to see how effective it really is.

Photo from Flickr user Jason Popesku

Photo from Flickr user Jason Popesku

I had always thought that just rinsing things in the sink was fine, so why the extra step? According to the CDC, produce is actually the biggest source of foodborne illness outbreaks. Fresh produce has a lot of opportunities for contamination during its long journey to your plate from contaminants in the soil and water, to unhygienic handling during harvest, transit, and stocking. By the time that apple makes it home with you, it has probably already been handled by several people. 

Contribution of Different Food Commodities (Categories) to Estimated Domestically-Acquired Illnesses and Deaths, 1998-2008

Contribution of Different Food Commodities (Categories) to Estimated Domestically-Acquired Illnesses and Deaths, 1998-2008

So, does a vinegar solution really do anything to help clean produce? A 2003 study from the Journal of Food Protection showed that a vinegar wash of 10% vinegar reduced the numbers of bacteria present on strawberries by about 90%, and reduced the numbers of viruses by 95%. They also tested products that are sold as veggie washes and found that plain old vinegar was often more effective.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/attribution-image.html#foodborne-illnesses

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12597475

http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm256215.htm

 

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