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Pesticides on fruits and vegetables

To help protect yourself and your family from pesticides on fruits and vegetables:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you start preparing food.
  • Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Rinse and eat the inner part.
  • Rinse produce with cool water for at least 30 seconds.
  • You can buy a produce wash product. Do not wash foods with dish soaps or detergents. These products can leave behind inedible residues.
  • Do not wash produce marked "ready to eat" or "pre-washed".
  • Wash produce even if you do not eat the peels (such as citrus). Otherwise, chemicals or bacteria from the outside of the produce can get to the inside when you cut/peel it.
  • After washing, pat produce dry with a clean towel.
  • Wash produce when you are ready to use it. Washing before storing can degrade the quality of most fruits and vegetables.
  • As an option, you may want to buy and serve organic produce. Organic growers use approved organic pesticides. You may want to consider it for thin-skinned items such as peaches, grapes, strawberries, and nectarines.

To remove harmful bacteria, you must wash both organic and nonorganic fruits and vegetables.

Alternative Names

Fruits and vegetables - pesticide risks

References

Landrigan PJ, Forman JA. Chemical pollutants. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 737.

US Food and Drug Administration. Food facts: raw produce. www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM174142.pdf. Updated February 2018. Accessed April 7, 2020.

Review Date 1/7/2020

Updated by: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.