Pack clean, ready to eat fruits and vegetables in school lunches

Having clean fruits and vegetables in packed school lunches does not mean they have been cleaned with soap and water.

It is back to school time and with that comes planning lunches. Planning lunches includes purchasing lunches at school or packing them.

No doubt about it, healthy lunches whether purchased at school or packed at home includes fruits and vegetables. When lunches are being packed just make sure that you know those nutritious fruits and veggies are clean and ready to eat when it comes lunch time.

Historically, we equate washing to cleanliness. We wash clothes, cars, dishes and ourselves. So, it is logical that many people believe fruits and vegetables can be made cleaner and safer by washing. Fruits and vegetables should not be washed with either soap or detergent. They should be rinsed with clean, running water.

The reason soap and detergent should not be used on produce is because they are not approved or labeled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on foods. Residues from the soap or detergent can be absorbed into the produce.

You may wonder what the difference is between soap and detergent. They are very similar in their chemical properties but there is a significant difference. Soaps are made of materials found in nature. Detergents are synthetic or man-made, although some of the ingredients may be natural. Detergents became available to Americans during World War II when oils to make soap were scarce.

Produce can come wrapped when you purchase it from the store but that doesn’t always mean it is ready to eat as is. Michigan State University Extension  encourages everyone to read the label of all your fruits or veggies to make sure it says, “Ready to eat, washed or triple washed.” If it does then you are good to go, but if it doesn’t then wash your hands and rinse the fruits or vegetables under running tap water to remove any lingering dirt or harmful bacteria that could be present. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, like apples and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush and rinse them again after scrubbing them. Dry them with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.          

Having clean produce in packed lunches is important and you can achieve this by rinsing thoroughly, not washing.