MU Extension food safety specialist explains how to pick the best produce and prepare a safe picnic.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Summer is a time for enjoying fresh fruit and vegetables and outdoor picnics. Don’t let food safety mistakes spoil the fun.

Food safety doesn’t begin in the kitchen, or even the market, says Londa Nwadike, extension food safety specialist for the University of Missouri and Kansas State University.

“Produce safety is a shared responsibility. Missouri produce growers are working hard to grow produce safely. MU Extension works with partners to provide resources to grow produce safely, and consumers can also do their part to keep produce as safe as possible.” A few things to keep in mind when selecting produce at the grocery store, farmers market or farm stand:

• Produce should look fresh, not wilted, and be free of bruises, cuts and nicks.

• Peeled or pre-cut produce must be in cold storage.

• Don’t buy produce that is touching the floor.

In general, store fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator until you’re ready to prepare them, Nwadike says. In the kitchen, always keep hands and surfaces clean.

“Use clean running water to rinse produce before consuming it,” she says. “For produce with rough skin, such as cantaloupe or potatoes, use a clean brush.”

Cut or peeled produce should not be in the temperature “danger zone” of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.

“If cut or peeled produce might be out for more than two hours from the time you cut it or take it out of the refrigerator, be sure to pack it in a cooler on ice so it stays below 40 degrees,” Nwadike says. “It will also taste better that way.”

Though it might be more difficult at a picnic or other outdoor gathering, you should still observe the same food safety practices: Wash hands and make sure containers, utensils and any other surfaces touched by produce stay clean. “If you are outside, cover produce to keep animals and insects away,” Nwadike says.

For more tips on produce preparation, MU and KSU Extension offer several online resources, including the publication “Storing Fresh Produce” at

For low-income individuals,  MU Extension offers free food preparation classes through the Family Nutrition Education Program. Visit

For general consumers, a variety of resources are available through the MU Extension Food Safety website at

More information is also available from county extension centers in Missouri. Find your county extension center at

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