Thursday, May 24, 2012

Myth: I don’t have to be concerned about foodborne illness when eating fresh produce.

Answer: BUSTED!

Fruits and vegetables are an extremely important part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, the number of foodborne illness cases involving fruits and vegetables is on the rise. This does not mean that we should be leery of eating fruits and vegetables, but we should take a few simple steps to protect ourselves.

  • Purchase produce that is free of bruises or damage.
  • When at the grocery store, bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from animal products.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from foods such as raw meat, poultry, or seafood, and from kitchen utensils used with those products.
  • When preparing fresh produce, begin with clean hands – washing for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash all produce 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 into the fruit or vegetable. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
  • Dry produce with a clean towel.

Note: Neither soap nor fruit and vegetable washes are necessary. In fact, detergents can leave residue on the surface of fruit and vegetables that is unsafe for consumption. Clean cold water is all that is needed. Watch the video below from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension for more information about washing fruits and vegetables.

You can also watch the video here: How To: Washing Fruits and Vegetables

For additional information, see Steps to prevent foodborne illness when eating fresh produce on

Contributor: Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 314-615-2911

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