Does Washing Food Promote Food Safety?

Starting date:
February 11, 2016
Posting date:
February 11, 2016
Type of communication:
Information Update
Subcategory:
Nutrition
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Important Safety Information, Food Safety
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-57088

Issue

Does washing food promote food safety? The answer is some things should be washed and some should not. As a society, we associate washing with cleanliness. We wash clothes, dishes and ourselves. So it might seem to make sense to wash meat and poultry to make it cleaner and safer, but this is not the case. Yes, fruits and vegetables should be washed; but you should not wash meat, poultry, fish, seafood or eggs.

The following tips will help to make sure you keep your food both clean and safe.

Meat and poultry:

  • Do not wash raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood before cooking because the water used in washing could splash and spread the bacteria from the meat to other foods, hands, clothes, work surfaces and cooking equipment.
  • Some bacteria could not be removed from meat or poultry even if it were washed many times.
  • The only way to ensure meat and poultry is safe to eat is to cook it to an appropriate internal temperature.
  • It is also important to properly clean all surfaces and utensils that have been used to prepare the meat. 

Soaking poultry:

  • Some people choose to soak poultry in salt water, commonly known as brining. This is a personal preference and does not have an impact on food safety.
  • Keep poultry in the refrigerator while soaking it.
  • Make sure to prevent cross contamination when soaking and removing the poultry from the water.

Washing eggs:

  • Do not wash eggs because it can remove the protective coating that is applied during commercial processing.
  • Farm fresh eggs are no different. Eggs are laid with a natural coating on the shell called "bloom," which helps to prevent bacteria from permeating the shell.

Washing fruits and vegetables:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under fresh, cool, running water, even if you plan to peel them. This helps to remove any surface pesticide residues and prevent the spread of any bacteria that may be present.
  • Use a clean produce brush to scrub items that have firm surfaces (e.g., oranges, melons, potatoes, carrots, etc.).
  • It is not necessary to use produce cleansers or soap to wash fresh fruits and vegetables.

Avoid cross-contamination:

  • Use one cutting board for produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
  • Place peeled or cut fruits and vegetables on/into a separate clean plate or container to prevent them from becoming cross-contaminated.
  • Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria. Sponges should be avoided as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes and countertops with warm, soapy water before and after use as well as between preparing different foods.
  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food. Use a kitchen sanitizer (as directed) or a bleach solution (5 mL of unscented chlorine bleach to 750 mL of water). Rinse all items thoroughly with water.

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