While the importance of proper washing and sanitizing of hands and surfaces has been recently highlighted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is also important for reducing the risk of foodborne illness. However, when it comes to food, the rules of washing are not as clear cut. There are some foods that should always be washed, and others that washing may actually increase the spread of potentially harmful bacteria or viruses. The following information about which foods should be washed or not was prepared by Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, www.eatright.org:

Always Wash

  • Fruits and Vegetables with Edible Peels:Wash all produce, no matter whether it is organic or conventionally grown, with cool tap water immediately before eating or using in a recipe. Skip the soap because the porous surfaces on fresh produce can absorb the ingredients in soap. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce the harmful bacteria that may be present on the surface of fresh produce. Misting produce at the grocery store does not clean it.


  • Fruits and Vegetables with Inedible Peels: Bananas, avocados, grapefruit, lemons, limes and winter squash — what do all of these fruits have in common? You guessed it, inedible peels. Wash all produce, even if the peel will not be eaten, because dirt and bacteria can be transferred from the peel to the inside of the fruit as it is sliced or peeled.


  • Can and Jar Lids: Wash lids before opening them so harmful particles don’t fall into food. Be sure to wash all cans before opening, including canned beverages and soup.


Never Wash

  • Raw Chicken (and Other Raw Meat): Despite what many think, washing raw chicken does not clean it. In fact, rinsing raw chicken may spread more harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter around the kitchen, which can potentially make you sick. The only way to kill those pathogens is to cook chicken and other meats to their appropriate internal temperature.


  • Fish: Avoid washing raw fish because it doesn’t clean the fish. Instead, it increases the chance of cross-contamination to other foods, utensils and surfaces.


  • Eggs: Avoid washing eggs after purchase because it can remove the coating that protects eggs from bacteria that is applied during processing.