Safer Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are important to the health and well-being of Americans and we enjoy one of the safest supplies of fresh produce in the world. However, although low, the proportion of foodborne illness associated with fresh fruits and vegetables has increased over the last several years. As health and nutrition experts continue to recommend we add more fruits and vegetables to a healthy daily diet, it becomes increasingly important that consumers know how to handle them properly.
At the point of purchase
- Check to be sure that the fresh fruits and vegetables you buy are not bruised or damaged.
- Check that fresh cut fruits and vegetables like packaged salads and precut melons are refrigerated at the store before buying. Do not buy fresh cut items that are not refrigerated.
When in doubt, throw it out!
- Throw away fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking.
- Remove or throw away bruised or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables when preparing to cook them or before eating them raw.
- Throw away any fruit or vegetables that will not be cooked if it has touched raw meat, poultry or seafood.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Clean all surfaces and utensils with hot water and soap, including cutting boards, counter tops, peelers and knives that will touch fresh fruits or vegetables before and after food preparation.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat”, “washed” or “triple washed” need not be washed.
- Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
- Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel.
- Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables. These products are not intended for consumption.
- When shopping, be sure fresh fruits and vegetables are separated from household chemicals and raw foods such as meat, poultry and seafood in your cart and in bags at checkout.
- Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry or seafood in your refrigerator.
- Separate fresh fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry and seafood. Do not use the same cutting board without cleaning with hot water and soap before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Cook or throw away fruits or vegetables that have touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or their juices.
- Refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within two hours.
Fruit and Vegetable Juices
Ninety-eight percent of the juice sold in the United States is pasteurized (heat-processed to kill pathogenic bacteria). The remaining 2 percent is unpasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed, harmful bacteria from the outside of the produce can become a part of the finished product. If it’s ingested, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems risk serious illness or even death.
Precautions for All Fruits, Vegetables and Juices
- Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should drink only juices that have been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill pathogenic bacteria.
- If you or someone in your family is in one of the at-risk groups and you cannot determine if a juice has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, either don't use the product or bring it to a boil to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.
- Pasteurized juice can be found in the refrigerated sections of stores. Like milk, pasteurized juice must be refrigerated.
- Treated juice consists of shelf-stable juice normally found in non-refrigerated, shelf-stable containers, such as juice boxes, bottles or cans. It is treated at a much higher temperature than pasteurized juice and is packaged in special airtight containers.
- Unpasteurized or untreated juice is normally found in the refrigerated sections of grocery, health-food stores, cider mills or farm markets. Unpasteurized or untreated juice must have the following warning on the label:
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.
The non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education saves lives and improves public health through research-based, actionable consumer food safety initiatives that reduce foodborne illness. Sign up to be a BAC Fighter at www.fightbac.org!