Everyone knows that we need a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our diets to be healthy.  But it is just as important to protect ourselves from the risks of foodborne illnesses through proper handling of these foods.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are at risk for contamination of harmful bacteria from the soil and/or water.  However, by following these simple tips you can lessen your chances of contamination that could potentially make you very ill.

Tips for Purchasing Fresh Produce

  • Stay away from bruised or damaged produce.
  • Keep your produce bagged and separate from raw meats.
  • Bagged fruits, vegetables, and salad greens should be in refrigerated.

Tips for Storing Fresh Produce

  • Maintain your refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees or below.
  • Store all pre-cut or peeled fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator.

Tips for the Preparation of Fresh Produce

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Use a clean cutting board separate from any raw meat or poultry.
  • Wash and dry all produce before preparation and eating even if the bag states that it has been “pre-washed”.
  • Sturdy produce such as potatoes or carrots can be cleaned using a produce brush.

Tips for Cleaning Up

  •  Wash your hands with soap and hot water.
  • Clean your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with a solution of 1 tsp. of chlorine bleach to one quart of water to sanitize. The bleach solution should stay on the surface for 10 minutes to kill bacteria.

Fruit and Vegetable Juices

According to the FDA, “Most of the juices sold in the United States are processed (for example, “pasteurized”) to kill harmful bacteria. But when fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed and left untreated, harmful bacteria from the inside or the outside of the product can become a part of the finished product.”  Watch for this warning: “This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.”

“Juices that are fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass – such as at farm markets, at roadside stands, or in some restaurants or juice bars – may not be pasteurized or otherwise treated to ensure safety. Warning labels are not required for these products. If you or someone in your family is at risk for foodborne illness, and you cannot determine if a juice has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, either don’t drink it or bring it to a boil to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.”