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Food Safety Basics for Fruits and Vegetables

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend that you eat fruit and vegetables everyday to help promote good health. As you strive to meet your individual recommendation, remember that proper handling and preparation can reduce the risk of food contamination and foodborne illness.

Food safetyTo minimize your risk, keep these in mind when selecting and preparing fruits and vegetables.

Carefully select fresh fruits and vegetables. When shopping, look for produce that is not damaged or bruised and make sure that pre-cut produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Rinse all fruits and vegetables before eating. This recommendation also applies to produce with rinds or skins that are not eaten. Rinse produce just before preparing or eating to avoid premature spoilage. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Clean all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water, including cutting boards, peelers, counter tops, and knives that will touch fresh produce. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten, under clean running water and avoid using detergents or bleach. Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage before washing. Produce with firm skin, such as potatoes, may require rubbing with a vegetable brush while rinsing under clean running water to remove all soil.
  3. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel and prepare, cook, or eat.
  4. Packaged produce labeled "ready to eat," "pre-washed," or "triple washed" can be used without further washing.

Keep produce separate from raw foods like meat, poultry, and seafood, in your shopping cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator. Throw away any produce that will not be cooked if it has touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Do not use the same cutting board without cleaning with hot water and soap before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Refrigerate all cut, peeled, or cooked produce within 2 hours. After a certain time, harmful bacteria may grow on produce and increase the risk of foodborne illness.

Current Food Safety Warnings

Preventing food borne illness remains a major public health challenge. Please check back for updates.

For more information on food safety, visit theses helpful Web sites:

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Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used. Consumer Information.

 
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