Keep Your Produce Safe
Practicing food safety isn’t just about washing your hands and cooking meat correctly. Each year, people contract foodborne disease from fresh produce like spinach, sprouts and cantaloupe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne disease each year. Most health risks linked to produce can be eliminated with proper food preparation like cleaning produce thoroughly. Follow these tips to safely enjoy fresh produce this summer.
- Visit the farmer's market early to buy produce before it sits out all day.
- Buy produce in season when possible.
- If you are not satisfied with the store's selection, ask the produce manager if there is more available.
- Buy loose produce rather than packaged; you will have more control over what you select.
- Don't purchase produce with mold, bruises or cuts.
- Buy only the amount of produce that you will use within a week.
- Promptly store produce that needs refrigeration.
- Fresh, whole produce such as bananas and potatoes don't need refrigeration.
- Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting.
- Throw away leftover cut produce that is left at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Discard cooked vegetables after three to four days.
- Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water immediately before eating.
- Wash produce before you peel it so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There's no need to use soap or a produce wash. For firm produce such as melons and cucumbers, scrub with a clean produce brush.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Use two separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination, use one for raw meats and the other for fruits and vegetables. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.
- Cook raw sprouts (alfalfa, clover, etc.); it significantly reduces the risk of illness.
For more information about how home food safety and for more tips to prevent foodborne illness, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.
Reviewed April 2013