Handling Produce Safely
Because many fresh produce products are not cooked before being consumed, it is very important to handle these products safely and prevent them from being contaminated with harmful microorganisms. While much is being done at the farms and in the grocery stores to make sure that fresh produce is safe, there are still steps we can take in our homes to help prevent foodborne illnesses. By making sure that fruits and vegetables are properly handled, prepared and stored, you can enjoy the healthy benefits of these foods and help prevent foodborne illnesses. Fresh fruits and vegetables can become contaminated with harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, when they come into contact with other food such as meats and their juices. Be sure to separate fresh fruits and vegetables from unprocessed or raw meats in order to avoid cross-contamination.
At the Store
- Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged
- When purchasing fresh-cut produce, select only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
- Separate fresh fruits and vegetables from meat, poultry and seafood products in the shopping cart and bags.
- All pre-cut or peeled produce should be refrigerated within two hours to maintain their safety and quality.
- Store fresh produce away from raw meat in the refrigerator in order to avoid cross-contamination.
Washing and Preparation
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water (for at least 20 seconds) before and after handling fresh produce.
- Clean all cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat and produce that will not be cooked. Cutting boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher, or washed by hand in a mild chlorine bleach solution of 5 ml (1 tsp) bleach with 750 ml (3 cups) water. Rinse cutting boards thoroughly afterwards.
- All produce should be thoroughly washed under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. Scrub fresh produce that have firm surfaces, such as melons and carrots with a clean produce brush.
- Pre-washed, bagged produce can be used without further washing. As an extra measure of caution, the produce can be washed again before using.
- Discard any rotten fruits and vegetables. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on produce before preparing or eating.