Nutrition-wise blog

Enjoy summer's bounty but don't neglect food safety

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. July 31, 2013

Are you buying more produce at farmers markets and road-side stands? That's great, but don't assume that produce is safe from contamination or that you are safe from foodborne illness. Bacteria are present no matter where vegetables and fruits are grown and sold.

It's also important to remember that some people are at greater risk for serious illness or even death if they get foodborne illness. Those at greater risk are infants, young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and transplant patients).

To keep you and your family safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following tips for cleaning and handling produce:

  • Choose vegetables and fruits that are intact. Avoid items that are punctured, split and bruised. Bacteria can enter through these blemishes and infect the food.
  • Wash your hands before handling produce. Use warm water and soap. Scrub hands and nails for 20 seconds.
  • Wash the produce by holding it under running water. Gently rub or use a clean vegetable brush (for firm produce). According to the FDA, there's no need for soap or special washes for produce. Dry the produce with paper towels.
  • If you're going to peel a fruit or vegetable, peel after washing and make sure your hands and knives are clean. And, if you're serving the produce raw, make sure you chop and prepare it on a clean cutting board or countertop to avoid re-contaminating it.

Here's to safely increasing your intake of vegetables and fruits.

- Jennifer

July 31, 2013