Tips for the Safe Purchase, Preparation, and Consumption of Fresh Produce to Prevent Illness
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Tips for the Safe Purchase, Preparation, and Consumption of Fresh Produce to Prevent Illness

Follow these recommendations to ensure that you're adequately protecting yourself and your family from foodborne illnesses

January 15, 2020

Fresh produce is often grown in uncontrolled environments, so there's always a risk of contamination. Fruits and vegetables can come into contact with harmful bacteria in the soil and irrigation water. They can also be tainted during harvesting, storage, transport, or while on display. Since contaminated produce can lead to foodborne illnesses, follow these tips to protect yourself and your family.

Buying Fresh Produce

  • Choose produce that is not bruised or damaged.
  • For pre-cut produce, choose items are that are properly refrigerated.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables in separate bags from meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Buy only what you need and can eat before it goes bad. Buy small amounts frequently as opposed to large amounts all at once.
  • Pre-cut is nice, but there's no way to guarantee that pre-cut fruits and veggies were prepared in a clean environment.

Storing Fruits and Vegetables

  • Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below.
  • Refrigerate all pre-cut produce.
  • Know which types of produce should be refrigerated.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables whole since cutting them will cause them to spoil faster.
  • Keep root vegetables in a cool dark place. Potatoes shouldn't go in the refrigerator since they'll develop a high sugar content.

Separating from raw meat

  • Wash all cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with soap and hot water or appropriate sanitizer after the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after every use on the hottest or sanitary cycle to properly decontaminate it.
  • Prepare fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing raw meats in order to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Don't store fresh fruit and vegetables anywhere near raw meat, which includes below raw meat in the refrigerator.

Preparing fresh produce

  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas, which can harbor bacteria and other contaminants. If your produce looks or smells rotten, it probably is rotten.
  • Wash all produce, whether sold at the grocery store or grown in your garden, thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking.
  • Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife to the rest of the fruit or vegetable.
  • Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush before cutting.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Find more tips and food safety information at FoodSafety.gov.