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Keep It Fresh, Keep It Safe

Spring has arrived.  It is fresh produce season.  The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Select a rainbow of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance your diet.

Keep It Fresh
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

There is a bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables during the Spring and Summer months.  Grocery stores, famers markets, and backyard gardens abound with abundant supply of fresh produce.

Recently fresh produce has been linked to various outbreaks of foodborne illness.  These problems are becoming more common and it is important as a consumer to know how to handle fresh produce safely.

 

Safe Produce Handling Tips

 Purchasing

Purchase vegetables and fruits that look and smell fresh.  Purchase only the amount you will use in a few days.  Most vegetables and fruits with the exception of apples, potatoes, and citrus don’t store well for long periods of time.

Storing

Put produce away promptly.  Most whole produce will keep best stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer where the humidity is highest.  Tomatoes and potatoes are two exceptions.  Tomatoes taste better if stored at room temperature.  Potatoes stay fresh longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark place.  Cut produce should be stored in the refrigerator in covered containers.  Bacteria can grow on cut surfaces of produce.

Washing

Rinse whole produce thoroughly under clean running tap water, just before you are ready to use.  Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent.  Scrub or rub as needed to remove surface contamination.  Wash produce such as oranges and melons even if you don’t eat the rind or skin.  When you cut into a fruit or vegetable, any bacteria that is on the surface can be transferred to the inner flesh.  Check the label instructions on fresh bagged produce.  For example; use by date, pre-washed, and ready to eat.  Discard stored fruits and vegetables that appear moldy or smell musty.

It is essential to our health to preserve the nutrition that is found in fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to maintain optimal health.  Following those easy safe produce tips can help preserve freshness and assure safe produce handling.