How Safe Is Your Kitchen?
Myth: Wash Meats, Not Vegetables
Reality: Food-safety experts recommend just the opposite. Because meat, poultry, and fish typically go through the "kill stage" of cooking, rinsing them first is unnecessary, says Shelley Feist, executive director of the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education. In fact, the process of washing raw meat and fish before cooking creates a less safe environment: By the time you've rinsed the chicken, you've likely scattered its juices―and maybe salmonella―around the kitchen.
On the other hand, produce that won't be cooked should always be washed well. (The exceptions are bagged fresh-cut produce and fruit labeled "prewashed" or "triple-washed," which are fine to eat as they are.) "You can't completely rinse off E. coli," says Feist, "but many pathogens, especially salmonella, can be reduced by rinsing under running water." Note that soaking fruits and vegetables won't do the trick―the motion of running water plays a major role in removing contaminants. Use a vegetable brush on foods with a firm or rough surface, and wash rinds and skins even if you won't be eating them, since cutting or peeling can spread pathogens from the outer layer to the inside.
Bottom line: Wash your vegetables, not your meat, under running water.