Tips to keep summer produce safe

Enjoying summer fruits and vegetables while keeping basic food safety tips in mind.

As summer continues in Michigan, it is getting easier to find the Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables we’ve been waiting for at local farm markets or in your own garden. It’s a great time to enjoy local produce and allow your body to benefit from all the nutrients fruits and vegetables provide. However, harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows can come in contact with fruits and vegetables and contaminate them. Fresh produce may also become contaminated after it is harvested, such as during preparation or storage. Eating contaminated produce could lead to foodborne illness.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that before you enjoy your local fresh fruits and vegetables, you keep a few important food safety tips in mind.

  • Always choose and pick produce that is not bruised or damaged.  Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Produce that looks rotten should be thrown away.
  • At the grocery store or farm market, bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products for transport home.  Bacteria found in raw meat juices can contaminate your ready to eat produce.
  • Monitor your refrigerator temperature with an appliance thermometer to ensure it is between 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  A refrigerator with temperatures above 40 degrees can allow bacteria to grow and contaminate food.
  • Refrigerate all cut or peeled produce below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a refrigerator or cooler.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with soap and hot water, followed by a sanitation step between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, seafood products and produce.
  • When preparing any fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. Simply place your produce under running water and rub with your hands or use a vegetable scrub brush.  The Centers for Disease Control recommend that you do not use soap, detergents or other commercial produce washes, just clean, running water.
  • Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean vegetable brush or use your hands.
  • Dry produce with a clean paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks is a great way to improve your nutrition. Following the food safety tips above will ensure that your body is enjoying safe produce each and every time.

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