Food Safety: When in Doubt, Throw it Out

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

My husband and I had a roast thawing in our fridge. It thawed alright – and raw liquid leaked all over into our fridge drawers – where we have a drawer full of fresh apples.

I know if I peel and cook the apples, I will be ok, but is there a way I can clean the apples and feel safe eating them raw? Or is it best to call it a loss and make a giant pan of apple crisp instead?

Signed,

Appalled in Appleton

What a pain in the butt. The pork butt?

The food safety mantra is “When in doubt, throw it out.”

The difference between the produce you currently have in your crisper drawer and produce you purchase from the grocery store, produce stand, farmers market, or pick yourself is that you know your produce has been contaminated while all other produce is potentially contaminated.

We wash produce to remove pathogens they may have picked up en route from farm to table. You just happen to have witnessed the point of contamination.

Make sure you use a two-step disinfection process to clean up the mess in your refrigerator. First, wash with hot soapy water and then use a dilute solution of chlorine bleach.

The best way to clean firm produce with skin, like apples, is to wash them thoroughly under running water while rubbing with a soft-bristled brush. This method is recommended for ALL firm produce, including melons, apples, and citrus fruits. Do not use dilute bleach or detergent on produce.

If you want to return the apples to the refrigerator for storage, be sure to dry them thoroughly before returning to the crisper drawer.

If you want to be extra careful, soak your apples in white vinegar for 3 – 5 minutes before rinsing and scrubbing under running water. E. coli O157:H7 (one of the more obnoxious food-borne pathogens) can be reduced with white vinegar. Now you only want to do this step just before the apples are consumed, as any bacteria that is left behind shouldn’t be given the chance to make new friends¹.

Now there is a great, big caveat here: If an apple has damaged skin, throw it out.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

¹How many former girl scouts do we have in the audience? “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” I’ll be singing that the rest of the dang day.

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6 thoughts on “Food Safety: When in Doubt, Throw it Out”

  1. @brenda_chapman I just can’t stop watching the ‘Brave’ trailer… For real I’ve watched it at least twice every day since it came out! <3 !

    Reply
  2. I am a recovering girl scout. The 12-step program has helped immensely, but I still build fires the way I learned on our campouts. However, I no longer feel the need for a sit-upon when I sit upon the floor.

    Reply
    • @Bobbie Laughman we hardly ever did the “fun stuff” in my girl scout troop. Seriously my enthusiasm for the whole deal died the night of the slumber party where they insisted on doing a barbie fashion show and someone had to lend me their chewed up Barbie because everyone had to participate. I clearly remember thinking, “You have got to be kidding me.”

      Reply
      • @HeatherSolos Wow, that’s too bad. My experience was great except for once at Girl Scout camp — which was a regional thing, so our troop leaders weren’t even there. For reasons unknown, I was put in a tent with several MUCH older girls and I ….. learned a few things I wasn’t even old enough to understand. O-O I loved camping with my own troop, tho, even when it poured and the tents collapsed and the pudding got left on the table in the rain and got watery, but we ate it anyway.

        Reply

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