Q.: Is there any benefit to spraying fresh fruits and vegetables with white vinegar and then washing them in cold water to remove harmful chemicals? I had read that the vinegar would help.
— Martha Bremer, Stow
A.: Not only can there be traces of chemicals on fresh fruits and vegetables, but there also can be bacteria, which can be even more potentially harmful than chemical residue. So washing fresh produce is very important.
Folks have used white vinegar for everything from easing sunburn pain to cleaning windows, so it’s no surprise you have heard that it is good on fruits and vegetables too. And in this case, there is actually some scientific research to back up the claim.
Researchers at Tennessee State University studied cleaning vegetables by a variety of methods — rinsing with water, rinsing with water and rubbing, rinsing with water and brushing, wiping with wet and dry towels, and rinsing with lemon juice, vinegar or commercial vegetable wash.
Their findings concluded that more than 98 percent of all bacteria was removed from the fruits and vegetables tested when washed with a vinegar and water solution.
A study by the editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine produced similar results.
So yes, a vinegar wash (use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts cool water) followed by a rinse in cool water is a cheap, safe, effective and environmentally friendly way to kill bacteria and other harmful chemicals on your produce.
If you don’t have vinegar on hand, however, don’t discount the benefits of a good soak and wash in plain water, which also proved highly effective in the Tennessee State research.
Got a food question? Lisa Abraham has the answer. Call 330-996-3737; email her at email@example.com with “Ask Lisa” in the subject line; or write to her at 44 E. Exchange St., P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640. Please include your name (initials will be printed on request), hometown and phone number.