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Safe Handling of Fresh Herbs

The aroma of fresh herbs in cooking transforms an ordinary meal into something extraordinary. Herbs improve the flavor of foods while at the same time they help to reduce salt, sugar and fat in dishes.

Fresh herbs are often used without cooking to season or garnish ready-to-eat dishes. But did you know fresh herbs have been traced back to some foodborne illnesses? Fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, basil, and chives are some of those herbs. Why not take the following steps to help prevent your risk of foodborne illness from fresh herbs.

When buying fresh herbs at the grocery store, make sure they are not dirty or damaged. Choose fresh herbs that are properly refrigerated. Once you arrive home, refrigerate them promptly. Fresh herbs that were left at room temperature for a long time have been traced back to certain foodborne illnesses. If fresh herbs have been left out at room temperature after two hours, they should be discarded.

You will find most fresh herbs last about five days if kept in a plastic bag. Herbs like basil and cilantro are better stored with the stems down in a glass of water with a plastic bag loosely wrapped around them.

As with any food prep, remember to wash your hands in warm soapy water. Then, make sure your herbs are washed. I’ve heard people say they do not wash fresh herbs prior to using. It is strongly recommended that you do to prevent foodborne illnesses. Fresh herbs should be rinsed or washed under cool running water just before preparing or eating. Shake off excess moisture and pat dry with clean paper towels. Never use soap or detergents when washing fresh herbs! You may find commercial vegetable wash solutions for fruits and vegetables. The solutions may help remove dirt and some bacteria.

For more information on herbs visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY120900.pdf

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