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Fruit and Veggie Handling Tips

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:38pm
Staying Healthy... Staying Safe
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. As you enjoy fresh produce and fruit, it's important to handle these products safely in order to reduce the risks of foodborne illness.

Harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows may come in contact with the fruits and vegetables and contaminate them. Or, fresh produce may become contaminated after it is harvested, such as during preparation or storage.

Eating contaminated produce or fruit can lead to foodborne illness, which can cause serious - and sometimes fatal - infections. However, it's easy to help protect yourself and your family from illness by following these safe handling tips!

Tips for Fresh Produce
You can help keep produce safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store.
Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged. When selecting freshcut produce - such as a half a watermelon or bagged mixed salad greens - choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice. Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products when packing them to take home from the market.

Storage Tips for Fresh Produce
Proper storage of fresh produce can affect both quality and safety.
To maintain quality of fresh produce:
Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below. If you're not sure whether an item should be refrigerated to maintain quality, ask your grocer. All produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated to maintain both quality and safety. Keep your refrigerator set at 40° F or below. Use a fridge thermometer to check!

What About Pre-washed Produce?
Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If so, it will be stated on the packaging. As an extra measure of caution, you can wash the produce again just before you use it. Precut or prewashed produce in open bags should be washed before using.

Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce that is purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
*Even if you plan to peel the produce/fruit before eating, it is still important to wash it first.
*Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
*Scrub firm produce/fruit, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
*Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood - and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
In addition, be sure to:
Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry and seafood products and the preparation of produce that will not be cooked. For added protection, kitchen sanitizers can be used on cutting boards and counter tops periodically. Try a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.
If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use.
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