Nutrition experts have said that requesting vegetable sellers to slice it at the point of purchase is unhygienic, warning that the practice can cause food poisoning.
They also noted that slicing vegetables at the point of purchase could lead to loss of vital nutrients.
The experts, a Registered Dietician-Nutritionist at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nwabumma Asouzu; and a Lagos-based Registered Dietician-Nutritionist, Cynthia Onyekwere, said there are serious hygiene issues with slicing vegetables before washing.
According to them, all vegetables should be treated with the utmost care, from the point of harvest to the consumer’s plate.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, Asouzu said raw vegetables could be contaminated with physical agents, like the seller whose hands may not be clean or who may have obtained the vegetables from a poorly hygienic environment.
“Other sources of contaminants like faecal material, parasitic contaminants, maggots, insects, and even sands and small pieces of stones, can be sliced together in the process.
“Another risk of this wrong practice is possible food poisoning from salmonella, E.coli, cryptosporidium, listeria, etc. All vegetables should be treated with the utmost care from the point of harvest to the consumer’s plate.
“Vegetables generally should be handled carefully as they contain antioxidants that can be lost when cut or mishandled. So never buy damaged or bruised fresh vegetables”, the dietician said.
Asouzu said there are possible nutrient losses in cut vegetables, such as ascorbic acid, B vitamins and folate.
Listing ways to prepare vegetables and make them safe for consumption, the food expert said, “Add a little quantity of salt, wash and then rinse all vegetables under running tap water or clean water. While rinsing under running tap water, rub or scrub firm-skinned vegetables with a clean vegetable brush.
“Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits and vegetables, since these products are not consumable. When shopping, separate fresh vegetables from household chemicals and raw foods, such as meat, poultry and seafood.
“During preparation, remove and discard bruised or damaged portions of vegetables before cooking.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, Registered Dietician-Nutritionist, Onyekwere, said it is a common practice for people to request that vegetable sellers help them slice their vegetables at the point of purchase, attributing the practice to lack of skill, convenience and hastening of meal preparation.
Onyekwere explained, “Despite these perceived benefits, slicing of vegetables at the point of purchase is not without its consequences.
“Nutrition-wise, most of the water-soluble nutrients, such as folate and vitamin C, are lost during the washing process.
“Also, dark green leafy vegetables, such as pumpkin (locally known as ugu) are known to be rich in non-heme iron. However, when these green leafy vegetables are sliced before washing, some of the iron is lost as well.
“The same can be said of the anti-oxidants embedded in these green vegetables. These include lutein and chlorophyll, which account for the green colour of these vegetables.
“Their loss is evident by the greenish discoloration of the water used in washing the sliced vegetables.”
The dietitian noted that in the aspect of food safety, slicing vegetables before washing has its demerits.
“The larvae of some insects can remain attached to the leaves if they are washed after slicing. Normally, by first picking these vegetables before washing and slicing, such insects and their larvae would have been removed.
“But because the process is reversed, some of these larvae continue to be attached to the vegetables.
“Consumption of such poses a significant health risk to people because the mild heat and short time used in cooking those vegetables may not be effective in destroying those insects and their larvae”, she said.
Onyekwere reiterated that slicing vegetables before washing has its nutritional and health implications and should therefore be discouraged.
“Meal preparation can be properly planned ahead to allow for ample time to pick, wash and slice vegetables, thereby preserving their nutritional quality and ensuring their safety”, she counselled.
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate