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Disinfect vegetables, fruits, salads & other produce in the home: this article describes the use of several approaches to washing & disinfecting produce: salad & vegetable products for home consumption. We include research pointing out which vegetable wash disinfection methods work and might be used successfully in the home and which others must be used with caution, or perhaps not at all.
Interestingly we report that where fruit or vegetable disinfection washes are needed, using distilled water can perform as well as or even better than some store-bought vegetable washes!
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Vegetable disinfecting wash chemicals sold at many produce stores or grocery stores (Sin Bac™, for example, is a product we use in Mexico) often contain a disinfectant that can be used for producing a produce disinfecting wash and that can also be used at a different concentration to disinfect water for drinking.
We describe how to use SinBac or similar products in detail below.
Watch out: If you have one of these products, read the label for the required amount of chemical to add and the wait time to use before consuming the water.
The Best Way to Wash Raw Fruits & Vegetables
The best ways to keep raw vegetables fruits safe have been outlined by a number of sources (References) including both independent organizations (e.g. University of Maine) as well as companies selling vegetable wash products.
The following is adapted & expanded from Bolton (ret. 2014) et als, there are a few basic veggie or fruit washing steps that are key:
- Bolton, Jason, Bushway, Alfred, Crowe, Kristi, El-Begearmi, Mahmoud, "Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables", Bulletin $4336, University of Maine, retrieved 4/1/14, original source: http://umaine.edu/publications/4336e/
Watch out: for these limitations on the effectiveness of bleach or chlorine disinfection of drinking water or grey water:
Alternatives to Use of Chlorine for Wash-Disinfecting Produce
Using distilled water as a vegetable wash
Ozone water purifier systems such as Air Zone's Ozone Water Purifier XT-301 and Indoor Purification Systems' J0-4 Multi-Functional Food Sterilizer removed microbes from the test produce but distilled water was found to be more effective than either of the ozone washes.
We have been using the Sears water distiller shown at left to produce distilled water for home use for over twenty years. The product is elegantly simple to operate and produces distilled water suitable for washing vegetables and fruits.
Why does distilled water work well as a produce wash? Besides not contributing any contaminants itself, distilled water is a very good solvent.
Advice for using SinBac or similar iodine-based vegetable disinfectant washes
With many years of experience washing locally-grown produce in Mexico we report that failure to wash and disinfect these products can be risky. Typically the products that we have used for at home produce disinfection in Mexico contain iodine.
Sin-Bac's disinfectant is (Cloro Dimetil Hidantonia or 1-Bromo-3-chloro-5,5-dimethyl-Hydantoin is a mixture of chlorine and bromine to form a useful antiseptic agent having bacteriostatic and bacteriacidal capabilities that have antibacterial, anti fungal, antiprotozoal, and anthelmintic activity) that can be used to disinfect water for drinking.
The Sin-Bac disinfectant concentration requires 4 caps per liter of water for a produce disinfecting wash.
Notice that next to our bottle of Sin-Bac we have a timer set to 5 minutes - the immersion time required for this product. In five years of vegetable wash using this product in central Mexico we have not had a bad result.
Sin-Bac is produced in Mexico by GV Products, Parque Chapultepec No. 61, Col Lomas Del Parque,
At left is another disinfectant produce wash product, BacDyn Plus (www.bacdyn.com). Unlike the disinfetant-based SinBac, BacDyn Plus uses 0.08% colloidal silver. The manufacturer recommends a 10-minute immersion for produce disinfection. We don't use this product, preferring the Sin-Bac described above. The BacDyn concentration instructions are on the package, typically 1/2 capful per liter for a disinfectant wash.
Using Hydrogen Peroxide as a Vegetable Wash
Some websites describe use of 35% food grade H2O2 but without citing authoritative sources. "Vegetable Soak: (CLOROX substitute): Add 1/4 cup of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide into a gallon of Cold Water. Soak light Vegetables (Lettuce, etc.) 20 minutes, thicker skinned Vegetables (like Cucumbers) for 30 minutes. Drain and dry, (they keep LONGER too). If time is a Problem, you can spray the Vegetables with straight 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, let stand for a couple of minutes, rinse and dry." But is this treatment effective for just for Ecoli or also for Giardia?
Watch out: Cryptosporidium cysts might survive a typical chlorine disinfection process (such as at a municipal water treatment plant) and these or other cyst-like pathogens are likely to survive casual vegetable washing.
[Click to enlarge any image]
For this reason some municipalities where Cryptosporidium cysts are a concern add a water treatment step using chlorine dioxide.
Others may use a combination of UV light and chlorine in the water treatment procedure. This treatment is also available to hikers, travelers, and for emergency water supply use.
Vinegar as a Vegetable Wash
Vinegar produce washing be effective as a limited-scope disinfectant wash for vegetables as well. See VINEGAR DISINFECTION for details
A second useful citation on the effectiveness of vinegar as a disinfectant that can treat giardia is below. Notice that the temperature of the process is important.
Other Produce Washes & Disinfectants: alternaties to chlorine
Li (2008) and Ölmez (2009) and certainly other researchers have proposed some alternatives to use of chlorine for disinfecting produce:
Ölmez proposes Chlorine dioxide, ozone, organic acids, peroxyacetic acid, electrolyzed oxidizing water and hydrogen peroxide for produce disinfection:
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