Produce Safety

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Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Your local markets carry an amazing variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are both nutritious and delicious.  However, harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows may come in contact with fruits and vegetables and contaminate them. Fresh produce may also become contaminated after it is harvested, such as during preparation or storage.  Eating contaminated produce (or fruit and vegetable juices made from contaminated produce) can lead to foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning.”  As you enjoy fresh produce and fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, follow these safe handling tips to help protect yourself and your family.

What do I do to stay healthy?
You can take adequate steps to select, store and prepare your produce to lower the chance you will suffer a foodborne illness. Here are tips from www.cfsan.fda.gov:
Purchase safe
• Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
• When selecting fresh-cut produce - choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
• Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from raw meat, poultry and seafood products.
• Avoid sprouts that are raw - see below.
Store and handle safe
• Perishable fresh fruits and vegetables can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.
• All produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated to maintain both quality and safety.
• Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
• All produce should be thoroughly rinsed before eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce that is purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
• Drying produce with a clean paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.
• To reduce the risk of illness, do not eat raw sprouts.
• Do not consume juice that is not pasteurized.
• Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If so, it will be stated on the packaging.
• As an extra measure of caution, you can wash the produce again just before you use it but make sure you use safe handling practices.
Why should I eat fruits and vegetables?
Consuming enough fruits and vegetables can help you manage your weight as well as lower your risk for many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. It also helps you keep your blood pressure in check. This is because when you are consuming adequate amounts of produce you are leaving less room for less desirable foods and you are getting adequate amounts of many vitamins, minerals and fiber.
How much do I need to eat?
The current Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate call for most Americans to consume about 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Most people do not consume this much and need to work on consuming more. A good rule of thumb is to eat about a cup of fruits and or vegetables for every meal plus snacks and dessert.

A word about sprouts:

  • Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts may contain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow, and these conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.
  • Rinsing sprouts first will not remove bacteria. Home-grown sprouts also present a health risk if they are eaten raw or lightly cooked.
  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind (including onion, alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
  • Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
  • When you’re eating out, ask that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you buy a ready-made sandwich, salad, or Asian food, check to make sure raw sprouts have not been added.
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