In the end, it comes down to this - if, as in this study, produce is heavily contaminated with pathogens, those pathogen can be difficult to remove with either brushing or peeling, especially once the brushes or peelers become contaminated. But in reality, with very few exceptions where GAPs are not follow, pathogens are absent from produce.
A few of the findings:
- "Pathogen removal (either E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella) was significantly lower from contaminated cantaloupes than from other contaminated produce items". Yeah, it's the rougher surface, so it is going to stick there.
- "Both pathogens could still be detected on all produce items brushed with any of the three brush types suggest that contamination of the peeler is a likely route for transfer of pathogens from the surface to the internal tissues." Once your cleaning tools encounter contamination, they can spread it.
- "The incidence of contamination for the nylon brush was significantly lower than that for the Sparta brush, which in turn was significantly lower than that for the scouring pad." The harder to clean the brush or pad, the more that it can contaminate.
- "To reduce risk further, consumers should be advised that brushing or peeling under running water may be beneficial for limiting contamination of the utensil and thus the risk of cross contamination to noncontaminated produce items subsequently processed with the same utensil." Keep your brushes and peelers clean.
A Sparta Brush
Journal of Food Protection®, Number 9, September 2015, pp. 1624-1769, pp. 1624-1631(8)
Role of Brushes and Peelers in Removal of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella from Produce in Domestic KitchensAuthors: Erickson, Marilyn C.1; Liao, Jean2; Cannon, Jennifer L.2; Ortega, Ynes R.2
Consumers are being advised to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk of chronic disease. However, to achieve that goal, consumers must be able to implement protocols in their kitchens to reduce their risk of consuming contaminated produce. To address this issue, a study was conducted to monitor the fate of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on produce (cantaloupe, honeydew melon, carrots, and celery) that were subjected to brushing or peeling using common kitchen utensils.
- Removal of similar levels of Salmonella from carrots was accomplished by peeling and by brushing, but significantly greater removal of E. coli O157:H7 from carrots was accomplished by peeling than by brushing under running water (P < 0.05).
- Brushing removed significantly fewer pathogens from contaminated cantaloupes than from other produce items (P < 0.05), suggesting that the netted rind provided sites where the pathogen cells could evade the brush bristles.
- A Sparta polyester brush was less effective than a scouring pad for removing Salmonella from carrots (P < 0.05).
- In all cases, brushing and peeling failed to eliminate the pathogens from the produce items, which may be the result of contamination of the utensil during use.
- High incidences of contamination (77 to 92%) were found among peelers used on carrots or celery, the Sparta brush used on carrots, and the scouring pad used on carrots and cantaloupe.
- Of the utensils investigated, the nylon brush had the lowest incidence of pathogen transference from contaminated produce (0 to 12%).
- Transfer of pathogens from a potentially contaminated Sparta brush or peeler to uncontaminated carrots did not occur or occurred only on the first of seven carrots processed with the utensil. Therefore, risk of cross-contamination from contaminated utensils to uncontaminated produce may be limited.