This week’s edition of Hood Health 101 focuses on the necessity of cleaning your produce

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Nothing annoys me more than seeing parents feeding their children or even eating themselves, the unwashed fruits in vegetables in grocery stores. All I can think about are the bugs, parasites, pesticides, waxes and other toxic substances that they are covered in. Then I think about how many dirty hands have touched them, how many trucks and boxes they’ve been in and how many floors they’ve fallen on before making it to the store shelves.

It turns out that I have very good reason to be concerned. I know it seems like eating a few grapes before washing them isn’t a big deal, however, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, “the Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodbourne illness annually and each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.” Some of these illnesses are due to eating unwashed, contaminated fruits and vegetables. Doing so can lead to Hepatitis A, E Coli, Cyclosporiasis, Norovirus, Shigellosis, Salmonella and more. If you happen to pick up any of these illnesses, some of the symptoms you may experience could include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, headache and more.


So, what can you do to avoid eating intestinal bacteria and parasites of an animal’s gut which may be hidden on your fruits and veggies? Wash them! Wash even the fruits and vegetables that have inedible peels. It can prevent harmful germs from getting on the edible parts of the food during the cutting or peeling process. Yes! Even the skin of a watermelon, pineapple or cantaloupe should be washed before cutting into it.

How should you wash your fruits and vegetables?  The same way you’d wash your chitlins of course! Vinegar. Some people use diluted castile soap, while some use baking soda or even salt as a mild abrasive. Nah. Hopefully, you are not still eating chitlins. Anyway… If you plan on washing a sink full of produce, fill the sink with water adding ¼ cup white or apple cider vinegar or baking soda and the rest with water. If you choose to use castile soap, use a combination of 1/8 part soap to 7/8 part water. Agitate the water with the produce in it scrubbing the more resilient types of produce using a nail brush or even a toothbrush. For fruits or veggies that are softer, use your hands and fingers to get in the parts that may hold dirt and chemicals. Try using a spray bottle with a combination of ¼ part – vinegar or baking soda to ¾ parts water if you cannot soak. Rinse well. Of course, if none of these are an option, just use plain water and scrub. Be sure that your own hands are clean first though. You don’t want to wash the dirt off of your hands onto the fruit that you are about to bite into.

With summer coming, I hope that we are all eating even more fresh fruits and vegetables. Look in your hood for local Farmer’s Markets and food co-ops, some of which even accept EBT cards. Their produce is less likely to have gone through being treated with pesticides, and the transfer process from the farm to your table is a lot shorter than most grocery stores. And then there is always the option of growing your own. This can even be done on a small piece of land in your yard, in a window of an apartment or even on a fire escape.

-Scihonor Devotion

SciHonor Devotion, CD, CPD, CCCE, CMA, CWSP is a contributing writer to the ‘Hood Health
Handbook’ series. She is a Labor Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, Homebirth Midwife Assistant and Womb Sauna Practitioner who serves women and girls in her community through workshop, ceremony and rites of passage. She can be contacted at or