Outbreaks of illness from contaminated produce are rare, but they do happen. And while that's no reason to swear off fresh fruits and vegetables, there are simple precautions you can take to keep yourself and your family safe.
- When buying pre-cut vegetables or packaged greens, be sure they have been properly stored either on ice or in a refrigerated case.
- Avoid produce that has been bruised, damaged or shows signs of mold.
- Always place produce in plastic bags, even if you're only buying one piece of fruit, as grocery carts and checkout conveyor belts can hold germs.
- Don't wash whole fruits or vegetables until you're ready to use them.
- When washing firm produce, such as apples or tomatoes, use cool running water and your hand or a vegetable brush to rub them clean as you rinse.
- Wash softer produce, such as berries or spinach, under running water or carefully wipe them clean with a damp paper towel.
- Always wash produce before you eat it: Even pre-washed fruits and vegetables should be carefully rinsed.
- Keep room-temperature produce, such as onions and potatoes, in a cool, dry place, but store them separately as they can cause each other to spoil.
- Don't store fruits like apples, pears and bananas together with other produce: They emit a gas called ethylene that will cause your other fruits and vegetables to spoil more quickly.
- Store refrigerated produce separately from raw meats or seafood. The crisper is the best place for produce, but be sure to check it often.
- Cover cut fruits or vegetables with plastic wrap or put them in air-tight containers before storing.