More than 9 million people get sick every year from dirty food, and according to a recent study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, fruits and vegetables contaminated with harmful bacteria cause 46 percent of those illnesses.
But don't let that figure deter you from filling your plate with colorful produce. A 20-second plain-water rinse will get rid of some bacteria, but for a more thorough germ-killing rinse, these easy, homemade veggie washes will help cut down on any bugs that could make you sick.
Super-Simple Veggie Wash
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 cup cold tap water in a spray bottle
Mix, shake well, and apply to your produce. Rinse with tap water before cooking or serving.
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Leafy Green Wash
1 cup distilled white vinegar
3 cups water
Mix the water and vinegar together in a bowl. Allow your greens to soak in the bowl for about 2 minutes, then rinse them well.
This wash, which researchers from the magazine Cook's Illustrated found killed 98 percent of bacteria on food, is good for leafy greens because greens are more likely than other forms of produce to be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, according to the CDC. If you want even more of the germ-killing boost, add a tablespoon or two of salt. A study in the Journal of Food Protection found that vinegar's ability to kill E. coli bacteria was "significantly enhanced" when salt was added to the mix.
All-Purpose Germ Killer
1 spray bottleful of undiluted white vinegar
1 spray bottleful of undiluted hydrogen peroxide
Spray your food first with the vinegar and then with the hydrogen peroxide. Rinse thoroughly.
You can use this on produce or on raw meat to kill E. coli, Listeria, and salmonella bacteria, according to a study in Food Microbiology. You can also use the mixture to disinfect your countertops. Alternately, spray the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide on a surface, then let it dry. Don't rinse or wipe the surfaces down afterwards.
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Note that these veggie washes will remove some pesticide residues from nonorganic produce along with bacteria, but because many pesticides are "systemic"; they wind up in the meat of the produce, where you can't remove them. That's why it's important to buy certified-organic produce as much as possible.