Scoring the crust

Washing produce in a vinegar solution removes most bacteria.

In kitchen tests, we discovered that spraying produce with vinegar is the best way to remove surface wax pesticides, but could this method destroy bacteria as well?

To find out, we cleaned apples and pears four different ways: rinsing under cold running tap water, scrubbing with a brush, washing with a vinegar solution and scrubbing with antibacterial soap. (We also left one batch unwashed as a control.) We took surface samples from the produce and grew the bacteria in petri dishes. After four days, we compared our petri dishes and found that rinsing under cold water had removed only 25 percent of bacteria and scrubbing with a brush removed 85 percent. The vinegar removed 98 percent of surface bacteria, which made it nearly as effective as the antibacterial soap.

The July 2002 issue of the journal “Microbiology” explains that the acetic acid in vinegar acts to lower the internal pH of bacterial cells, which in turn inhibits several key biochemical mechanisms, effectively destroying the bacteria.

We recommend washing produce in a solution of three parts tap water to one part distilled vinegar applied with a spray bottle. This method should work for any firm, smooth –skinned fruits or vegetables. Just be sure to rinse them under cool running tap water afterward to remove any unwanted vinegary flavors.

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