Monday, June 20, 2011
Rinse, Dry, Repeat...
Watch this week's video on YouTube
Eat your vegetables! They’ll make you strong. Those carrots will help your eyesight. And oh ya, make sure you wash everything properly or you could suffer serious gastrointestinal symptoms, kidney failure or even death. OK? Now eat up. (You’ve just experienced my inner thought process after learning about the virulent new strain of e-coli originating in Europe).
Meal preparation will never be the same, and maybe that’s a good thing. While I’m the first to admit to eating an apple from the grocery store after just shining it up on my pant leg, or to pouring pre-washed salad straight onto my dinner plate, this e-coli outbreak is a tragic reminder of how serious, and even deadly, the consequences of improper food preparation can be. And it’s not a foreign problem. Here in Canada, there are about 13 million cases of food-borne illness every year. That number could be slashed by 85% with safe food handling practices alone.
I set out to learn how to protect myself from any invisible bacteria, and enlisted the advice of two registered dietitians at Sunnybrook. Here’s a little true and false synopsis of what I uncovered:
True or false: It’s enough to wash your produce under cold running water.
True! For foods like apples and tomatoes, run them under the water until it runs clear. For produce with a hard rind, like a cantaloupe, invest in a produce brush to get into all the nooks and crannies before you cut it up. And remember, if you soak it, you’ll still need to wash it under running water to remove any harmful bacteria. For lettuce, make sure to separate the leaves and wash each one separately.
True or false: You need to wash your produce with soap.
False! Enough cold running water will do the trick.
True or false: All produce is safe for everyone if prepared properly.
False! The dietitians told me that The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends children, infants, the elderly and immuno-compromised don’t consume mung bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts because they have a high contamination rate of e-coli and salmonella.
True or false: If the package says pre-washed, you don’t need to wash it at home.
True! (Hurray, at least I was doing something right!)
There are some other great tips you can see in my video, including why the eyeball test should never be used to judge food safety (yes, I’m guilty of that, too). But when you know better, you do better, so here’s to turning over a fresh new (safe) leaf.