Tomatoes are part of a healthy eating pattern and are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Tomatoes are generally red, but they also exist in yellow, pink, and purple varieties. Tomatoes are often eaten fresh or used as an ingredient in recipes. Beefsteak, plum, and cherry tomatoes are popular tomato varieties.
You may enjoy the health advantages of tomatoes and help avoid food poisoning for yourself and your family by properly handling, washing, preparing, and storing them.
Tomatoes and food poisoning
Although fresh field tomatoes do not contain germs that might cause illness, they can get infected due to their proximity to the ground.
Eating tomatoes that have been contaminated with harmful bacteria can make you sick. Salmonella-related food illness has been linked to contaminated tomatoes.
Tomatoes can become contaminated in the field by:
- contaminated water
- improperly composted manure
They can also be contaminated by bacteria:
- processing, storing, and transporting during and after harvest
- in the supermarket, in the fridge, or from countertops and cutting boards (through cross-contamination with harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry, or seafood)
- Choose tomatoes that are firm but not tough. Tomatoes continue to ripen after they are picked.
- Tomatoes with bruises or wounds on the skin should be avoided.
- Keep tomatoes apart from raw meat, poultry, and shellfish in the supermarket cart to avoid cross-contamination.
Did you know?
A tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable.
- Store whole tomatoes unwashed and uncovered at room temperature until ripe. Stay away from direct sunlight.
- When tomatoes are ripe, they should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days. Keep tomatoes apart from raw meat, poultry, and shellfish to avoid cross-contamination.
- Refrigerate peeled and chopped tomatoes for three days before using. Throw away cut/peeled tomatoes that have been left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Hand washing and adequate cleaning practices may help you minimize cross-contamination and the spread of food illness.
- Before and after handling tomatoes, thoroughly clean all equipment, counters, and cutting boards with warm water and soap.
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching tomatoes, using warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Any tomatoes that are damaged or rotten should be discarded.
- Wash the tomatoes under cold, running water. Washing tomatoes with anything other than water is unnecessary. It is just as effective to wash them gently with water as it is to use produce cleaners.
- Tomatoes should not be soaked in a sink full of water. They can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.
- Remove the scar where the stem was and discard it.
Should you wash freshly picked tomatoes?
To prevent spoilage and mold growth during storage, it is best to wash tomatoes just before you eat or prepare them. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds before handling fresh tomatoes. With a paper towel, pat them dry.
Should I wash tomatoes with vinegar?
Washing fruit and vegetables in vinegar is a good way to remove potential bacteria. Make a three-part water-one-part vinegar solution. Most germs may easily be removed with plain water. Vinegar will not make produce last longer.
Should tomatoes be washed with soap?
It is not suggested to wash fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash. On fruits and vegetables, do not use bleach solutions or other disinfection chemicals. Before cooking or eating, remove any injured or bruised regions.
What happens if you don’t wash tomatoes?
Eating unwashed fruits and vegetables has two major risks: bacterial infection and pesticides. In recent years, many outbreaks of foodborne illness have come from contaminated cantaloupe, spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.