In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables — including spinach, tomatoes, lettuce and most recently cantaloupe.
Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened each year by food contaminated with harmful germs. Although this is worrisome for anyone, it is especially frightening for chemotherapy patients. The same chemotherapy drugs that help you fight cancer often times damage white blood cells which help protect your body from infections and other illnesses. And when your white blood cells are low, a small infection can quickly turn into a major health threat.
So it’s super important for chemotherapy patients to clean their fruits and veggies well before eating. In fact, I remember one nurse telling us that Alan should NOT eat any raw vegetables whatsoever when his counts were down and that we needed to wash any fruit or vegetable (including bananas, melons, lemons, etc) before cutting into it.
Everyday Health posted these Tips for Cleaning Fruits & Vegetables that we followed religiously…. and candidly I still follow this even now….
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. (this includes oranges, melons, bananas, anything you would peel or cut into.)
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
- All perishable produce should be stored in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below.