Preparing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Safe Consumption
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The average American consumes 300 pounds of fresh produce per year, and health
educators are encouraging more. Children, elderly and those with weakened immune systems
may be especially vulnerable to the bacteria that sometimes contaminate fresh produce. You
can take precautions to protect your family from food borne illnesses associated with
eating contaminated uncooked food.
- Store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. Bacteria that is present on fruits and
vegetables is likely to thrive at room temperatures.
- As consumers we should realize that the kitchen sink is our last line of defense in
making sure fruits and vegetables are clean and safe to eat. Scrub and rinse each piece of product carefully, especially if you intend to eat it raw.
Although this will not kill bacteria, it will reduce the numbers. Do not wash foods in
soapy water because the soap can leave residues of its own.
- Rinse lettuce leaves individually under cool tap water. You may want to peel away and
toss the very outside layer of leafy produce.
- Scrub root vegetables, even if you plan on peeling them later.
- Rinse delicate fruit, such as berries in a colander. Remove the leafy stems as they
often harbor bacteria.
- Rinse sprouts and fresh herbs before serving.
- Rinse and scrub fruits even if their peels are not consumed. Lemons for example are
often in contact with other foods or beverages. When melon is sliced, bacteria on the rind
is introduced into the flesh.
If you were wondering, the thin, waxy coat on some produce (such as apples and
cucumbers) is not a cause for concern. The practice of waxing fruit and vegetables helps
maintain the quality of the produce by retaining the moisture, protecting the food from
bruising and to preventing spoilage. Waxed produce should also be washed in water. There
is no need to peel waxed produce.
Sources: UMC Grapevine Newsletter, Nov/Dec 1997, p. 9 & 10
Childrens Food Safety Kit", National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics of the American Dietetics Association
Glenda I. Kinder, KinderG@missouri.edu
Nutrition and Health Education, Information Technology
Clay County, Missouri
University of Missouri Extension