Fruits and vegetables, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can be contaminated with harmful germs. The germs are responsible for causing sickness in about 48 million people annually. Produce, just like animal products, must be handled with great care to prevent avoidable illnesses. This is for the reason that fruits and veggies also harbor foodborne germs responsible for related illnesses.
The United States, in recent years, has experienced multiple outbreaks in illnesses resulting from foodborne germs present in fruits and vegetables. Vegetables such as cantaloupe, spinach, lettuce, and tomatoes can cause illnesses if not washed and prepared properly.
A Food and Drug Administration foodborne…
illness expert, Glenda Lewis, states that fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can easily become contaminated in various ways.
During growth, for instance, harmful substances in water and soil, animals, and poor hygiene among farm workers can contaminate fruits and vegetables. Post-harvest, fresh produce goes through different hands, increase the risk for contamination.
And, even after buying fruits and vegetables, they can get contaminated via insufficient storage or during food preparation. When selecting your groceries for purchase, pick non-damaged or bruised options.
And… Make sure that pre-cut items such as watermelon and lettuce slices are kept in refrigeration or on ice, either at home or while they’re still in the store. FDA also recommends that you follow the procedure below to clean and prepare your veggies to keep them foodborne germs-free and safe:
- Make clean water available
You need clean water to wash your fresh produce. Before going shopping, make sure that your kitchen has enough supply of clean water.
Install a true workhorse water softener to make your hard water usable. The best shallow well pumps are built ready to serve most homes with the need to soften hard water. With access to clean and soft water, you’re ready to prepare healthy fruits and veggies in your kitchen.
- Assess your fruits and veggies
Check your grocery for damages and bruises before purchase. Make sure that pre-cut melons and packaged salads, including other fruits and veggies that have been freshly-cut are kept in refrigeration at the store. If they aren’t refrigerated, don’t buy them.
- Clean your produce properly
Develop the habit of washing your fruits and veggies properly to reduce the risk of ingesting harmful germs and residues.
Many people handle fresh produce from the moment they’re planted to harvesting to the time they’re displayed in farmers markets or grocery stores. Assume that every hand that touches your veggies isn’t clean.
Fresh produce also goes through various environments before you purchase them at your local grocery store. Therefore, it’s better to assume that your product has been sneezed on, coughed on, and breathed on apart from being touched with dirty hands.
Washing your produce well before eating or cooking them removes residues deposited on them during their journey from farms to your kitchen.
Fresh fruits and vegetables have a natural coating for protective purposes. Wash them under running water prior to cooking or eating them. However, you shouldn’t wash them before storage to ensure that they don’t spoil fast.
After washing your leafy greens, they’ll only last a few days in storage before they go bad. This explains the need to only wash items you intend to use immediately or in a few days to prevent food wastage. You don’t need special washing products such as vinegar or soap to clean your fresh produce because they don’t kill mold or bacteria, and leave an aftertaste on your veggies or fruits. It’s also important to do the washing right to keep your food safe for consumption and tasting great.
Here’s how to clean your fruits and vegetables in the right manner:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 30 seconds prior to handling your fresh veggies and fruits. Do the same afterward to keep your hands clean.
- Use soap and hot water to clean utensils and kitchen surfaces, including countertops, cutting boards, knives and peelers. Clean every surface that’ll get in contact with your fresh produce before preparing your food and when done.
- Rinse your greens and fruits under running tap water. If labeled “washed,” “ready-to-eat” or “triple-washed,” there’s no need to wash your packaged fruits or veggies.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with firm skins under running water. Rub them with your fingers or use a clean vegetable brush to scrub them as you rinse with running tap water.
- Use a clean paper towel or cloth towel to clean dry fruits veggies.
- Never wash your fresh produce using bleach or detergent because they aren’t meant for ingestion.
Separate produce from other household items and raw meats
Separate your fresh produce from other household items when you go shopping. Raw meats such as poultry, meat and seafood, and household chemicals can contaminate your fruits and vegetables when placed in the same checkout bags or carts.
Keep your fruits and veggies separate from meats while in refrigeration.
Use a different cutting board for fruits and veggies separate from what you use for meats. If you have to use the same board, clean it with soap and hot water and let it dry before using it for your fresh produce.
Cook your veggies
If your products get in contact with raw meats such as poultry, meats or seafood, or just their juices, cook them right away. You can cook your fresh food in many ways, including steaming, microwaving, pan-frying, or baking. Other methods include:
- Deep-fat frying
Remove damages or cuts and chill
Whether you want to eat your fruits and veggies raw or you intend to cook them, chop out damaged parts or cuts to chill the rest of your produce. Make sure you cut, peel and cook your foods for refrigeration within two hours to avoid throwing food away and prevent wastage.