The #1 thing you’re not doing with your watermelon but should


It’s that time of year when you see shoppers leaning over bins of watermelons, madly tapping them in an effort to find the perfect ripe melon. After paying for them, for safe transport, these large fruits are often placed in car trunks or on the floor. They’re then brought in the house and placed in the fridge until it’s time for them to be cut. And, all too frequently, they’re sliced with no other steps in between – or at least in many cases.

Do you see what’s wrong with this picture?

Washing the whole watermelon is the step that’s missing here. While some of you reading this automatically wash your watermelons, I’ve come across many people who have never thought of doing so. After all, you don’t usually eat the watermelon rind (which you can make into a pickle, though) and as a result, many watermelon lovers simply slice through the rind to get to the juicy flesh. That means the knife used to cut the fruit will first come into contact with the dirt from the car trunk or floor along with the microbes from all the hands that handled the melon from farm to table. Then that knife will cut through to the melon flesh, possibly contaminating it.

While reports of foodborne illnesses related to watermelons are extremely common, others such as cantaloupe are much more so. There have been a number of outbreaks of foodborne illness from microbes such as listeria and salmonella over the years linked to this fruit. It’s even resulted in growers banding in organizations to find solutions to the problems.

The key, though, may be in your hands. Proper food handling can make all the difference. Firstly, get rid of the idea that only fruits and vegetables that are not peeled need to be washed. Possibly the only one you don’t need to wash before eating is a banana but only if you don’t touch the peel and then the fruit itself.

But for certain produce, steps need to be taken right at the point of purchase. Those such as cantaloupes, which have been identified as a potential source of foodborne illness, should be handled slightly differently or separated from the rest of your groceries. Over the years, these melons have made the headlines due to various reports of the rind being tainted with bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. When shopping, consider putting your cantaloupe into a plastic bag so that you don’t contaminate your shopping bag or your other purchases. Then when you arrive home, put the melon right into the sink and give it a good scrub before putting it on your counter or into the fridge. Then be sure to disinfect your sink.

When you really think about it, washing any fruit with a rind or peel you will cut through is a smart idea. Just think about where that fruit has been or how many hands have touched it. If you don’t already, consider washing other produce with rinds or peels, such as mangoes or even lemons, oranges and other citrus. And while it may at first, seem like a lot of work to do this with all your fruit, consider that once you get into the habit of always washing these items, it won’t seem like as much of an inconvenience at all.

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Food Safety, Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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