Produce: Quality and Safety Go Together
Most people are aware that eating fruits and vegetables are important for
a healthy, balanced diet. There have also been many media reports of people
getting sick from produce contaminated with bacteria. This doesn’t
mean you should stop eating produce. Instead, select for quality and handle
with care. Here are tips to keep in mind when buying and using produce.
- First, check to be sure that the fresh fruits and vegetables you buy
are not bruised or damaged. Bacteria can enter bruised or damaged
produce more easily.
- Make sure fresh cut fruits and vegetables are kept refrigerated at the
store and at home. Do not buy fresh cut items that are not refrigerated.
- Keep produce separate from raw meats, poultry or seafood when shopping,
transporting and storing at home.
- 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 that will touch fresh produce with hot
water and soap. This includes cutting boards, counter tops, peelers and
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under clean running tap water. Even
produce with skins or rinds that are not eaten should be washed, by rubbing
or scrubbing with a vegetable brush under running water. Do not use soap.
- If packaged fruits and vegetables are labeled ready-to-eat, washed or
triple washed, washing is not necessary. However, rinsing under clean,
cool water can help refresh leafy greens.
- After washing or rinsing produce, dry with a clean towel or use a salad
spinner to remove excess water.
- Use a separate cutting board for fresh produce, and raw meat, poultry
and seafood. If fruits or vegetables that will not be cooked touches raw
animal foods or juices, throw it out!
- Clean the cutting board with hot water and soap before and after preparing
fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Remove and throw away bruised or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables
when preparing to cook them or before eating them raw.
Serving food and storing
- Refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within
two hours. Harmful bacteria can grow on produce left at room temperature
for more than 2 hours.
- If in doubt, throw it out!
Fresh fruits and vegetables are important to the health. By selecting quality
produce and handling them properly, you can continue to enjoy the variety
and nutritional benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
This article is provided by the Cooperative Extension
Service, Nutrition Education for Wellness program, College of Tropical
Agriculture and Human Resources, 1955 East-West Rd, AgSci 306. Visit