Last week we had a question from a food safety educator located in Minnesota. She wondered if it was necessary to wash onions, garlic, and ginger root before using them. She told us that she found information from both schools of thought. Some resources indicated that it was necessary to wash before using while other resources were vague on that point.
We did some research and had the same problem the educator from Minnesota had; we could not find a definitive answer either. We contacted our own food safety specialist and fortunately, she had a contact at the Partnership for Food Safety that knew the answer.
By now, you too, may be wondering if you should wash those vegetables before using. The answer is that you should always wash vegetables before using. Like cantaloupe or watermelon, we cut through the peel or rind when cutting into these foods. That means that any bacteria living on the outside of the food could potentially ride on the knife through the food contaminating the surface.
We often get callers wanting to know what type of soap works best when washing produce. According to the Partnership for Food Safety, running water and the use of a brush are enough to remove bacteria. Patting the produce dry with a clean paper towel will also help remove surface bacteria. The Partnership does not recommend using soaps and bleach on produce and are not something people should eat.
I had not realized that I needed to wash my garlic and onions; I rarely use ginger root. I plan to start washing all my produce before using it.