When the bounty of produce harvest come in spring and summer, many people rush out to both grocery stores and local farmer’s markets to stock up on fresh healthy foods. Over the years, there have been some scares regarding produce with salmonella and e coli breakouts. No matter where you purchase your produce, you must prepare and handle all produce carefully and correctly. Unless fruits and vegetables are labeled organic, then most likely some sort of pesticide was used in the growing process. Even with organics, consumers still need to handle fresh produce correctly. Here are some tips in making sure your fresh foods are healthy to eat.
Check Your Fruits and Vegetables Before Purchasing
When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to examine them carefully. If you discover bruises or damages, do not purchase. Be cautious of pre-packaged vegetables and fruits that have several pieces of produce in a package. If you cannot see the items on the bottom of the box, ask an employee to open up the package. Not only will you lose money by purchasing inferior produce, mold or decay can affect all the items in the entire package.
Clean Your Hands and All Fresh Produce Before Preparing
Be sure to wash your hands before handling fresh produce. Any germs or bacteria on your hands can transfer to the produce itself. Clean all surfaces and utensils with hot water and soap before preparing produce. Always provide a rinse of running tap water to all vegetables and fruits. After preparing produce, be sure to wash your hands and surfaces again.
Separate Fresh Fruits and Vegetables From Other Items
All fresh fruits and vegetables should be separated from household chemicals. This is particularly important at supermarkets. Pay attention to how your purchases are being bagged. If you have to, slow down the cashier and point out to grocery baggers that you do not want your produce bagged with anything else, especially detergents, soaps or other non-food items.
Chill Produce That has Been Cut
Produce that has been cut or peeled should be refrigerated within two hours. If you are having a party with fresh fruit or vegetable trays, place produce out last just before eating. After eating, take a few moments to stash the cut fruit and veggies in zipper type bags or other containers and stick these in the refrigerator. Any cooked vegetables or fruits should also be refrigerated within two hours. When storing vegetables in the refrigerator, be sure to keep produce separate from any raw foods. Always use a different cutting board and knives for meat and produce. Wash cutting boards with hot soapy water both before and after prep.
Throw Away Fruits and Vegetables That are Aging
A good rule of thumb to remember is ‘when in doubt, throw it out.’ Throw away any bruised or damaged portions when preparing to cook. Immediately toss any fruit that has touched raw meat, poultry or seafood. This is especially important to remember when grilling out during the summer months. Following these suggestions will keep your healthy produce safe for you and your family and will greatly reduce spoilage.
Source: Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Georgia