Wash produce before eating

Published 12:43 am Wednesday, June 7, 2006

By Staff
Summer brings an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits to groceries and roadside markets. While tempted by these treats, many people are concerned about the increase in foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce over the last few years.
A food scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says consumers can reduce their risk of foodborne illness from fresh produce rather easily.
She recommends that consumers take the following steps with produce to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged. If buying fresh-cut produce, be sure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
Use a cooler with ice or use ice gel packs when transporting or storing perishable food outdoors, including cut fresh fruits and vegetables.
After purchase, put produce that needs refrigeration away promptly. Fresh whole produce such as bananas and potatoes do not need refrigeration.
Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting.
Discard leftover cut produce if it has been left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Weese adds that it is important to wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water, or a fruit wash immediately before eating and you should scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
Cut away any bruised or damaged areas before eating.”
Wash individual leaves of lettuces and other greens instead of just rinsing the entire head. Soil and other contaminants are better removed this way.
Weese says good hygiene is a key way to reduce the risk of disease.
She encourages consumers to wash surfaces that come in contact with food often. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops should be washed with hot soapy water and sanitized after coming in contact with fresh produce or raw meat, poultry or seafood. You can sanitize with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.
Avoiding cross contamination is another critical way to reduce potential illness.
Clean your refrigerator regularly with warm soapy water. Rinse completely with plain water and then sanitize it with a chlorine bleach and water solution.
This ensures a clean storage area for your produce and limits the potential for contamination at home.