Although most people know animal products must be handled carefully to prevent illness, many don't realize that produce can also be the culprit in outbreaks of foodborne illness. In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables - including spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.
An expert on foodborne illness with the Food and Drug Administration says fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, and poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation, or through inadequate storage
Keep Everything Clean
When cooking with raw foods, be sure there are plenty of clean utensils, cutting boards and severing platters. To prevent foodborne illness, don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits & Veggies
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised acres before preparing or eating.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There's no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
- Show perishable produce in the refrigerator at 40°F or below.