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Monday, March 31, 2008

Food Safety: Cutting out Cantaloupe Cross Contamination

Here's the thing: I don't wash much produce. Not Bananas, oranges, apples, winter squash, zucchini, green peppers, or green beans. Not even broccoli or cantaloupe. Unless it seems dirty. I always wash leeks, lettuce, spinach, kale, collards because they always have silt or sand in them. I generally wash potatoes, carrots, and beets, because they grow underground and "might" be dirty. I don't wash waxed rutabagas before I peel them. I really don't obsess about whether food I am just about to cook might have a few invisible germs on it.

And my family is fine.

All the recent talk about how difficult it actually is to rinse, soak, wash, bleach, or scrub the germs off the surface of a cantaloupe got me wondering. The discussions at Fanatic Cook raise a lot of valid points about how hard it is to make sure you've gotten rid of something you can't even see. So I found this video from the International Food Safety Network refreshing. Instead of instruction in eliminating the invisible, it counsels cutting down on cross contamination. At six minutes, it seems a little long. So I'll summarize:

  • It is really hard to scrub the germs off a cantaloupe.

  • You might splash wash-water all over the place.

  • Instead, cut down contact between the outside and the inside

  • Cut the (unwashed) cantaloupe into quarters. You won't spread many bacteria to the flesh.

  • Now use a clean knife to separate the flesh from the rind.

  • Slide that flesh onto a clean cutting board. Wash your hands before you handle the flesh further.

  • Refrigerate the cut cantaloupe immediately.

Of course I routinely wash my hands before cooking, even thought they don't look dirty. But, for some reason, I just can't see doing the same with the produce, and this approach makes more sense to me.