How to Safely Handle Produce

How to Handle Produce Safely

Do your fruits and vegetables from the store spoil before you get a chance to use them? Do you need to wash your produce with soap or vinegar? We can help with that! Avoid frustration, check out our easy guide to handling and washing fruits and vegetables to get the maximum storage time possible so you can make that dinner salad on Friday as you planned.


  • Discard any produce (fresh fruits and vegetables) that are slimy, mouldy or that smells off. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after handling produce. 
  • Wash all produce just before cutting, peeling or eating even if the outer rind is not being eaten. Washing is necessary as any bacteria on the outside can be transferred to the inside when an item is cut or peeled. 
  • Soap, chlorine bleach and vinegar can leave residues and should not be used when washing produce. Although commercial fruit and vegetable washes are available, they are not necessary. Washing with water alone has proven to be enough to remove surface dirt and residues. 
  • Use a vegetable scrub brush when washing produce with rough surfaces such as cantaloupe, potatoes and squash. Be careful not to damage the skin  
  • Discard outer layers of lettuce, cabbage and other leafy vegetables. 
  • Leafy greens or dense vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts should be soaked in water to dislodge dirt. Follow by rinsing thoroughly under cool running water. 
  • Do not return washed produce to its original packaging. 
  • Use a clean cutting board and a clean knife for cutting produce; wash the cutting board and knife with hot, soapy water after using. 
  • All cut fruits and vegetables must be refrigerated. For food storage information on common fruits and vegetables check out our handy food storage guide.


Why is there wax on fruits and vegetables? What does it do? 

Some fruits and vegetables produce their own wax to help prevent moisture loss. After harvesting, a food-safe wax is often put back onto these and onto other fruits and vegetables. Non-organic produce that is commonly waxed includes apples, citrus fruits, peaches, cucumbers, squashes, bell peppers, tomatoes and root vegetables.  

Wax might be applied for two reasons: 

  1. Preservation – Wax protects produce during transportation to the store and while at the store. Wax prevents water loss, shrinkage and spoilage. It also can also protect the fruit from bruising and delays ripening. 
  2. Presentation – Wax improves the appearance of fruits and vegetables by giving them a bright and shiny finish, making them look fresher and more desirable. 

The small amount of wax used is edible and safe, according to Canadian government standards. If you want to remove the wax, simply wash with water as above, or use a soft brush and running water. 

Try These:

  • Easy
    Athenian Green Salad
  • Easy
    Marinated Vegetable Salad
  • Easy
    Super Greens with Blueberry Vinaigrette
  • Easy
    Strawberry Fruit Salad

Printable guide

Download our Produce Safety guide for information on handling and cooking produce as well as kitchen safety.