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While Chicken Should Stay Away From the Sink, Pineapple Needs a Scrubbing

RISMEDIA, Feb. 5, 2007-('s a problem that affects 76 million Americans, and it starts in the kitchen: contaminated food.

Roughly one in four people will get sick every year from food-borne bacteria. But protecting your family may not be as straightforward as you might think.

Sara Moulton, "Good Morning America's" food editor, recently shared some surprising news on what foods should and shouldn't be washed before eating.

Moulton said that despite the recent e-coli outbreak linked to pre-packed spinach, bags of pre-packed, washed greens are safer to eat than unbagged greens washed at home.

"If a bag is infected with something like the recent e-coli outbreak, washing it will not get rid of e-coli," Moulton said.

Moulton added that nothing is cleaner than triple washed lettuce, but for those who prefer to wash lettuce themselves, she offered some tips.

– Peel off the outer leaves and discard them.
– Take a bowl of tepid water and soak the leaves in it so that all of the sand and dirt floats to the bottom.
– Drain and either spin dry or pat dry.

Fruit With Skin Must Be Washed

While many people don't wash cantaloupes, honeydew melons and pineapples because they have thick outer skins, Moulton said washing is absolutely essential.

"Bacteria quickly cling to the rind and form a biofilm," she explained. "So even though you don't eat the rind of these items, the salmonella can be transferred from the skin into the flesh during cutting."

Moulton said people should scrub the outside of these fruits vigorously with a clean, firm brush before cutting. Sanitize the brush between uses so it doesn't harbor bacteria. But don't use soap or detergent to wash the fruits — you could ingest residues that the produce absorbs.

Washing is also necessary with lemons, limes and oranges. The FDA recommends consumers wash all fruit, even if it's going to be peeled.

Keep Chicken Out of the Sink

While the FDA used to advise consumers to wash their chicken, now they've changed their position. Moulton explained that people shouldn't wash chicken because bacteria from the raw poultry can contaminate the kitchen.

"What happens when you wash chicken in the sink is that — if contaminated — those germs will spread all over your sink. Drop a piece of lettuce for the chicken cobb you're making, and boom! Your entire meal is now contaminated," she said.

Moulton advised that it's better to cook meat thoroughly to destroy bacteria than to risk spreading it to kitchen surfaces.

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