Dr Lisa Ackerley looks at the reasons why you should wash raw vegetables thoroughly.
The Health Protection Agency revealed that unwashed leeks and potatoes may have been the cause of 250 scattered cases of E.coli O157 during 2010- 2011 which hospitalised 74 people and killed one already sick person.
So how do you make sure you don’t fall ill from E. coli? Should you stop buying leeks and potatoes? Of course not! Just follow some simple rules:
- Cooking kills E. coli, so all leeks and potatoes will be safe when cooked.
- Use anti-bacterial products to remove dirt and kill E. coli on potentially contaminated surfaces such as chopping boards and sinks.
- Make sure you wash your hands properly after handling raw vegetables – not a quick swill under the tap, but with soap, warm water and dry them properly afterwards preferably on a paper towel or hand towel – not a tea towel! This is a video from the Food Standards Agency on hand-washing which is for caterers, but there are some useful tips for the home.
It raises the issue again of how to clean produce which is to be eaten raw – produce wash for domestic and commercial use is available from the Hygiene Audit Systems shop.
So would I want to eat a peck of dirt? Not if it has E. coli on it – and how can you tell? It seems as though nearly every month another source of this potentially deadly organism is uncovered. So to keep things simple, assume that raw vegetables, meat and poultry may be contaminated, clean up carefully after preparation, and wash your hands!