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My husband and I travel in third world countries. We love the fresh fruits and veggies but have to be very careful about cleaning them. I usually wash them with soap and water, using a little scrub brush. I then soak them in about a quart of water with a tsp. of bleach for two to five minutes. Is this really necessary? If it is, is my cleaning method sufficient? Is there a better way to do it? Do you have any other suggestions regarding fresh food safety in less developed countries?

In developed countries, this would certainly be unnecessary. Simply washing with water is enough (no soap or bleach needed.) But you are right to question this in third world countries because many of them have inadequate access to potable water and sources may be contaminated with disease pathogens. Drinking or using such water in food preparation could then lead to illness.

The World Health Organization here recommends that foods be cooked thoroughly and that all fruits and vegetables, if eaten raw, be peeled. In your described cleaning regime, the water itself may be the problem and your bleach “kill-step” is what has protected you. It sounds like you’ve been successful so far, but you are right to be cautious.

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