Ask Us Anything: Reducing Cross Contact in the Produce Section

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Dear Scratch or Sniff:

Have you come across information about how to wash fruit to get rid of food allergens? For example, at a grocery store, if there are pears near the peanuts, grocery store employees or shoppers could touch the peanuts, and then touch the pears. If I buy a pear, then there would be peanut proteins on the pear, and my son would be at-risk for a reaction, even if the pear were rinsed with water.

Just wondering if you’ve come across something about this!

–Produce Lovin’ Mama

Ask Us Anything: Cleaning Produce
Hi Mama,

I understand your question and concern completely. For this reason, and many others, I started to wash our fresh produce in a totally different way since my son’s first allergic reaction.

Before diagnosis, my full produce cleaning treatment usually lasted about 30 seconds. I dipped the fruit or veggie under some running water until I deemed it “clean enough,” and then went about my business, not thinking about how clean or unclean that produce really was.

Now I’m a *little* grossed out by that.

I’ve tried a few fruit and veggie washes out there in the past 7 years, and the one that I like the most is this one, which you can buy online or find at stores like Trader Joe’s. The company also make handy wipes that you can carry in your purse or diaper bag with you for those times you need to grab something on the go.

In addition to the wash, you can use a scrub brush to help try reducing cross contact that may have occurred with your produce. Oxo makes one that looks fairly easy to handle.

When it comes to cooking and cleaning, I typically try to follow FARE’s general cleaning rules of thumb:

Effective Cleaning
To effectively remove food protein from surfaces, wash the surfaces with soap and water. Simply wiping the crumbs from spatulas, cookie sheets, cutting boards, or surfaces is not enough. To be safe, purchase a cutting board, plates, and kitchen utensils that will be used for allergy-free foods only. Store these items in a designated area.

Studies have shown that conventional cleaning methods are effective in removing the protein of a food allergen such as peanut. Bar and liquid soap is effective for removing protein from your hands, while alcohol-based sanitizer is not, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology;. That study also showed soaps and commercial cleaning agents effectively removed peanut protein from tabletops, while dishwashing liquid alone did not.

One tablespoon of concentrated bleach per gallon of water at normal room temperature is the standard for cleaning food preparation surfaces. Hotter water temperatures decrease the effectiveness of bleach solutions. Putting the solution in a spray bottle is convenient for traveling. Allow the surface to air dry after sanitizing. The effectiveness of a bleach solution diminishes over time.

I hope this information helps you and sets your mind at ease a bit. As always, if you’re unsure, talking with your doctor is your best bet as you tackle specific concerns.

Readers: do you have any other tips for cleaning your produce and reducing cross contact possibilities?

Tiffany Self

Tiffany Self is a wife, mom to "Z", and a lover of words. In an ironic twist, she is an English class dropout who now writes for a living. Tiffany is a freelancer in the Chicago suburbs by way of Seattle and Southern Oregon. She writes about her journey of parenting a child with multiple severe food allergies, asthma, and environmental allergies. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

1 Comment to Ask Us Anything: Reducing Cross Contact in the Produce Section

  1. Very interesting. We don’t have food allergies in our house anymore, but I’m totally guilt of just rinsing fruits and veggies under running water, and now I wonder what kind of ickies we could be eating? Going to buy some of that “wash” solution ASAP!

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