Do you clean your produce enough?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Health authorities are blaming pre-packaged salad mix on what caused an outbreak of cyclospora in Iowa and Nebraska that has caused a lot of people to become very sick.
The cause for more than two-dozen intestinal illness cases in Florida isn't yet known.
The outbreak begs the question, though, just how far do you need to go to make sure your produce is safe?
"It is confusing," said Anna Dame. "You go online, I'm sure as you know, it's so much conflicting information."
Mitch James, the assistant general manager of the Jacksonville Farmers Market, ran produce departments for Publix for more than 20 years. He has a rule of thumb in his own home.
"It's just best not to take any chances," he said.
While the federal government does not recommend this, James goes beyond rinsing with water.
"My wife or myself will always use a little bit of mild dish detergent in the water," he said.
Though the government says you don't have to wash the pre-washed packaged salad, James does it anyway after washing his own hands.
He also has a special warning about things like melons.
"People think, 'Well, I'm not eating the skin. I'm eating the inside,'" James said. "But when you go to cut it up and push that knife down there, that cantaloupe skin, something that's on the outside is being pushed into the inside with that knife."
That's something many people like young mother Brena LaCourse never thought she had to worry about.
"I'll do it from now on since (my son) loves watermelon," she said.
"What I actually use myself is actually a, you know, I have my own scrub brush for the fruits and vegetables," said Rich Westenbarger, UF Health Jacksonville emergency medicine physician.
Westenbarger said it's not unusual to see people in the ER with food-borne illnesses. That's why he believes it's important to go above and beyond when cleaning produce to get rid of the stuff on it that may send you there.
"You can't see it, you can't even notice the contamination just by looking at your fruits and vegetables, but it can still cause all kinds of problems," Westenbarger said.
The bottom line is to thoroughly wash all of your produce whether you eat the outside or not. And depending on whom you ask, you may want to wash pre-packaged salads as well.
For a full list of the government's recommendations, click here.
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