Enjoying Produce Safely

Fruits and vegetables are an important and delicious part of a balanced diet. But, because they are often eaten raw, it is important that people take a few simple precautions when purchasing, storing and preparing fresh food that will greatly reduce their risk of food borne illness.

A person’s first opportunity to protect themselves begins at the grocery store, farmer’s market or other point of purchase. Choose fruits and vegetables that are not bruised or damaged and always bag them separately from meat, poultry and seafood. If it is a pre-cut item such as a halved melon, make sure it has been refrigerated or surrounded by ice. When those items are brought home, it is important that they are stored correctly. Perishable or pre-cut fresh fruits and vegetables should be stored at a temperature of 40° F or below until ready to be eaten. Thermometers are very helpful in ensuring correct temperatures and a refrigerator should always be kept clean.

During preparation of fresh foods the following steps should be taken:

  • Thoroughly wash hands, any utensils that may be used, and preparation surfaces carefully.
  • If an item appears to be rotten it should be discarded.  Bruised and damaged areas should be cut away and disposed of.
  • Unless produce is in a package indicating it has already been pre-washed, all items should be carefully washed before eating.  This includes fruits or vegetables that are going to be peeled.
  • Firm produce such as melons or cucumbers should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush.
  • Dry the produce with a clean cloth or paper towels.
  • Store prepared or leftover fruit and vegetables in a clean refrigerator 40° F or below and away from meat, poultry or seafood.

Summer and fall brings a bounty of delicious fruits and vegetables.  By using the steps outlined above, individuals can reduce their risk of food borne illness and enjoy these and other fresh foods year round.

For more information, please visit CCHD’s Environmental Health division online or call 454-6950 and ask to speak with an Environmental Health Sanitarian.