With the holidays now over, many of us are choosing healthier groceries and meals than we were in December. So, that means increases in the consumption of fruits and vegetables. And, a key factor to keep in mind when purchasing items from the produce department is food safety. Consumers are the last link in a very long food safety chain (think of all the safety checks and measures in place to ensure that produce is picked, packed, graded, transported, delivered and stored before it even gets into a buyers shopping cart!!!!). So, consumers need to be up to date on the key steps to ensuring food safety and protecting themselves from food borne illnesses.

FightBac! is an initiative developed by the Partnership for Food Safety Education. It is a great resource that provides 6 easy steps to safer fruits and vegetables:

1. Check

  • Make sure there is no damage or bruising to the product.
  • Make sure fresh cut fruit and packaged salads are refrigerated in the store. Do not purchase if they are not.

2. Clean

  • Wash hands with warm soapy water before handling produce.
  •  Clean all surfaces and utensils with hot soapy water. Remember to do this before and after food-preparation.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water, even the types with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm skinned fruits and vegetables, or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing.
  • Dry fruit and vegetables with a paper towel.
  •  Never use detergent or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables.

3. Separate

  • When shopping, be sure fresh fruits and vegetables are separated from household cleaners/other chemicals, and raw foods such as meat, poultry, and seafood. In the cart and in your bags at checkout.
  • Keep fresh fruit and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry or seafood in the fridge at home.
  • When preparing meals, separate fresh fruits and vegetables from raw meat, poultry and seafood; don’t use the same cutting board without cleaning it with hot soapy water before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.

4. Cook

  • Throw away or cook immediately any fruits or vegetables that have touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or their juices.

5. Chill

  • Place all cut, peeled, or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge within 2 hours.

6. Throw Away

  • Discard any fresh fruits or vegetables that have not been refrigerated within 2 hours of cutting, peeling, or cooking
  • Remove and discard bruised or damaged portions of fruit and vegetables when preparing to cook them or before eating them raw.
  • Throw away any fruit or vegetables that will not be cooked if it has touched raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Remember: if in doubt, throw it out!

Need more info? Checkout the their site for lot of great resources (some even kid friendly!); their material is made available with the support of the Produce Marketing Association. For even more food safety info, you can also visit www.foodsafety.gov.

Consumer Steps to Safer Fruits and Vegetables was last modified: by