August 2015
Homeplace & Community

Keeping It Fresh

Selecting and Serving Produce Safely

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Your local markets carry an amazing variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are both nutritious and delicious. However, harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows may 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 (or fruit and vegetable juices made from contaminated produce) can lead to foodborne illness, often called "food poisoning." As you enjoy fresh produce and fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, follow these safe handling tips to help protect yourself and your family.

Buy Right

You can help keep produce safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store or farmers market.

Store Properly

Proper storage of fresh produce can affect both quality and safety.

Separate for Safety

Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood – and from kitchen utensils used for those products. Take these steps to avoid cross-contamination:

Prepare Safely

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.

What About Pre-Washed Produce?

Many pre-cut, bagged or packaged produce items such as lettuce are pre-washed and ready-to-eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging. If the package indicates the contents are pre-washed and ready-to-eat, you can use the produce without further washing.

If you have any food safety or preservation questions, please call me at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office. You can find that number by going to and click under the "Offices" tab near the top. You can select your county and find out all the contact info there.

Resource: This information was taken partly from a handout from The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Food Information.

Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.