Signup for our newsletter to receive pregnancy, parenting and child health updates.

articles and blog

Whether you purchase your produce at a grocery store, farmers market, or pick your own, everyone should follow a few simple steps to protect themselves and their family from a food-borne illness. Partnership for Food Safety Education and Fight BAC!® has developed six simple steps to follow as you enjoy the seasons fresh harvest.

Step 1: CHECK...

...that the fresh fruits and vegetables are not bruised or damaged. As this allows growth of microbes that can cause illness into the produce. Any time you purchase produce that is already cut, be sure that it is properly refrigerated or on ice. Bacteria grow more rapidly in the range of 40°F to 140°F, thus making it possible for microbes to double in number every 20 minutes.

Step 2: CLEAN...

...your hands, surfaces and all utensils with hot soapy water before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. The CDC recommends that hand-washing practices helps reduce illness and the spread of infection to others. This also will prevent cross-contamination from occurring with cutting boards and utensils.

Step 3: RINSE...

...fruits and vegetables just before eating by running under water, including those with skins or rinds that are not eaten. (ie. cantaloupe or honeydew melons) Firm skinned fruits and vegetables should be rubbed by hand or scrubbed with a clean and sanitized brush while rinsing under running tap water. Pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Soap or bleach is not recommended or intended for consumption. Evidence shows that washing vegetables and fruits under running water reduces the microbial loads. Optimal microbial removal can be achieved when scrubbing melons with a clean and sanitized brush. Patting dry also further helps to reduce microbial loads. Researchers have found that running water was just a effective as any veggie wash, vinegar solution or detergent in getting rid of microbial loads.

Step 4: SEPARATE...

...your fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry or seafood when shopping, bagging, refrigerating or preparing them. If you have re-usable shopping bags, make sure that you wash them regularly to prevent cross contamination. If drippings from raw meat, poultry or seafood comes in contact with fresh produce, pathogens can contaminate it.

Step 5: CHILL...

...all cut peeled and cooked fruits and vegetables at or below 40°F within two hours of preparing. A USDA/FDA risk assessment found that keeping a constant refrigerator of 40°F or lower is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.

Step 6: THROW AWAY...

...any fresh fruits or vegetables that have not been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking. Remove and throw away any bruised or damaged portions of the your produce before eating them raw or preparing them to cook.  Also, any fresh produce that has come in contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood must be thrown away. Bacteria grow more rapidly in the range of 40°F to 140°F, thus making it possible for microbes to double in number every 20 minutes. Bruised or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables are more susceptible to the growth of bacteria that can make you ill. Any fresh produce that has come in contact with raw meat dripping can contain pathogens that can make you ill.

And never forget that popular saying... If in doubt, throw it out, because you cannot see, smell or taste bacteria that can cause a food-borne illness.

Nancy Urbanec

Nutrition Expert from UNL Extension

Nancy Urbanec brings over twenty-five years of Food Safety and Nutrition experience to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service. As an Associate Extension Assistant for UNL, she has a degree in Family and Consumer Science and Secondary Education from Wayne State College. Nancy works with both adults and youth in the areas of food safety and healthy lifestyles. Learn more about Nancy and the other UNL Extension nutrition experts at NutritionKnowHow.org. ...

Learn more about this author

Categories: nutrition,