Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Washing your Guinea Pig's Fruits and Vegetables

Most humans do not grow the fruits and vegetables they feed to their guinea pigs themselves. Therefore, they don't know what's been done to them during the growing, harvesting, and shipping process. So why does this matter? One issue with unwashed fruits and vegetables is the threat of food borne germs/illnesses. According to the CDC, every year, 1 in 6 American humans will get some kind of food borne illness, and there are about 250 known food borne illnesses out there they can get. Here are just a few of these food borne illnesses:
  • Botulism
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Cyclospora
  • E. coli
  • Listeria
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Vibrio
We also know that us guinea pigs are vulnerable to at least some of these same food borne illnesses as well. For example, the Merck Veterinary Manual says: "Campylobacter GI disease has been reported in exotic pets (eg, ferrets, mink, primates, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, and rats)." In addition, according to one veterinarians's website, while Clostridium perfringens is normally not a problem for healthy guinea pigs, it can be an issue if the gut flora has been disturbed by antibiotic usage.

I hope this pineapple chunk is safe to eat! It's quite tasty.
In addition to food borne illnesses, another concern is pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), "USDA tests found nearly three-quarters of the produce samples it analyzed in 2014 to be tainted with one or more pesticides." EWG points out that there are not a lot of studies on how safe or dangerous being exposed to these pesticides are, but what studies do exist are concerning. They recommend eating organic to help avoid pesticides, although even organic produce should still be washed.

So what's the best way to wash your fruits and vegetables? The FDA recommends just washing them under running water. The University of Maine recommends using distilled water, and the University of Colorado says you can add a half cup of vinegar per 1 cup of water to reduce bacterial contamination, although this may affect the taste. You should follow the FDA recommendations at a minimum, and perhaps go the extra step of using distilled water and/or vinegar if you want to be extra-safe. Some scrubbing may also help.

Fruits and veggies you may want to be extra-safe (i.e. buying organic and using the extra-safe washing methods) with include what EWG calls the "dirty-dozen," who have been found to have more pesticides than usual: "strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers."


  1. Fortunately, our human always washes our produce (and hers) because she thinks unwashed produce is gross. Now if only we could convince her that we need more produce, like one whole orange per pig, per day.

    1. Yes, wouldn't it be great if the humans would just let us into the vegetable crisper once in a while for an all-you-can-eat buffet?