Fruits and vegetables are good for you! Our parents and grandparents knew that, and chances are you’ve been hearing the recommendation to eat “5 a Day” for years. And yet, even these healthy foods can make you sick if they are not handled and prepared properly. Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year.
Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released recommendations for how to reduce the risks of foodborne illness with its “7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables”:
Glenda Lewis, an expert on foodborne illness with the Food and Drug Administration, says fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, and poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation, or through inadequate storage.
To keep yourself and your family safe:
- When possible, choose fruit that isn’t bruised or damaged.
- When choosing bagged, pre-cut items (such as lettuce), make sure the items are refrigerated—in the store and at home.
- Wash your hand for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating the produce.
- You don’t need to use soap when washing produce–just gently rub the items under plain running water.
- Wash produce BEFORE you peel it so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred to the item.
- For firm produce (such as potatoes), use a clean vegetable brush to scrub the items.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce the risk of bacteria.
- Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
Summer is a great time to enjoy the best produce of the season, in salads, cole slaw, and fruits and berries. You don’t need to be paranoid about cleaning fruits and veggies, you just need to be safe.
To read the full FDA article, which includes a video, click here: 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables