Expert advice on cyclosporiasis prevention

July 26, 2013

Jan Jowitt, RN, DHA
UNTHSC’s Infection Control Officer

Yes, you have to wash your bananas — and the reusable shopping bag you carried them in.

Cleaning your fresh produce, as well as anything it touches beforehand, is essential to preventing the parasitic diarrheal illness cyclosporiasis that has stricken a dozen Tarrant County residents and hundreds nationwide.

Advice from Jan Jowitt, RN, DHA, UNTHSC’s Infection Control Officer:

  • Put freshly purchased unwashed fruits and vegetables in the kitchen sink, not on the countertop, so they don’t contaminate food-prep surfaces.

  • Wash produce thoroughly under cold running water. "I use the scour side of a sponge," says Jowitt. "You don’t have to bruise your mushrooms or kiwis, but do remove all dirt and debris."

  • Use Formula 409 or a similar cleanser to wash any surface, such as a countertop or sink, that has contacted unwashed produce.

  • Wash even your produce that has a peel or rind, such as bananas and melons. "The knife blade passes through the rind and deposits the parasites on the fruit," Jowitt says. "Or, as you peel the banana or the orange, parasites on the peelings get on your fingers and then on the fruit."

  • Read the Tarrant County Public Health bulletin on cyclosporiasis.

  • Clean your reusable shopping bags. "Bacteria, parasites and fungi thrive in a moist environment," Jowitt says. "Your frozen foods ‘sweat’ on the bag, and your apples and celery shed organisms that take up residence in the moist fabric and proliferate." She recommends choosing plastic-lined shopping bags that you can swab with antibacterial wash. 

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling produce. 

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