Scrub a dub- Should you do it to your food?
Even as a dietitian, there is some food-related information that stumps me, especially when it comes to cooking. Growing up, I saw my mom wash some foods before cooking, and not others. Now as an adult following recipes online, some people recommend washing certain foods before cooking, and some don’t. So, what’s the deal?
I did a deep dive on the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) website to answer this question and here is what I found:
Washing raw meats like poultry, steak, pork, lamb or veal or fish is not only unnecessary, it may actually be pretty dangerous. Whether you rinse these meats under running water or soak them in a bowl full of water, this is exposing the bacteria naturally found in these products to other bacteria found in your kitchen, which can lead to contamination and foodborne illness. These meats are cleaned during processing, so don’t worry, these products are clean and ready to be cooked and consumed. If there is extra liquid from the packaging you can always blot it with a clean paper towel, just discard it immediately after.
Eggs go through a similar process to meat during processing. The shells are washed prior to packaging and coated in edible mineral oil which helps protect the long-term storage of eggs. Washing eggs at home could increase the risk of cross-contamination, especially if the shell is cracked so is a major no-no.
Fruits and vegetables, however, SHOULD be washed prior to consumption. To do this, simply rinse under running water. These products come from nature and may be delivered with traces of dirt. Washing produce prior to use makes sure any germs from shipping and handling are removed, especially if eating these foods raw. It’s always important to ensure the inside of the sink and any surface that will be used for cutting are cleaned and sanitized prior to prepping any raw produce.
When it comes to canned beans, both rinsing and not rinsing are safe and acceptable. The liquid that beans are canned in is generally high in sodium. This liquid is often used in recipes; however, The Bean Institute suggests that draining and rinsing your beans prior to consumption can remove 41% of its sodium(!!) which is beneficial for your heart.
Finally, grains. The consensus on washing grains seems to be personal preference. There aren’t any risks for cross-contamination and foodborne illness when it comes to washing grains, but some grains come with a coating that, if not rinsed prior to cooking, may impact the flavor or starchiness of the grain. Play around with washing some grains and see which way you’d prefer it.
Remember that all foods go through extensive cleaning and safe food-handling processes before they are distributed and sold in grocery stores. A general rule of thumb is that foods that will be cooked shouldn’t be washed before eating but food that will be consumed raw should be rinsed under running water.
- Dietitian Reuby