Friday, June 14, 2019
By John Voket
Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year, and you certainly don’t want to be one of them.
Most folks know animal products must be handled carefully to prevent illness, but produce can be another culprit when it comes to outbreaks of foodborne illness. Recent outbreaks have been caused by contaminated spinach, cantaloupe and tomatoes, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
To minimize risk, whenever possible, the FDA says to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items—such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices—are either refrigerated or on ice at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit both in the store and at home until serving. In addition, follow these FDA recommendations:
– Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
– If damage or bruising occurs before eating or handling, cut away the damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
– Rinse produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto other fruits or vegetables.
– Gently rub produce while holding under running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
– Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce like melons or cucumbers.
– Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria.
– Remove the outermost leaves of lettuce or cabbage.
There’s also a lot to be said about using more or all of the food waste you usually toss.
You can reduce food waste by:
– Refrigerating peeled or cut vegetables for freshness, quality and safety.
– Freezing foods to retain their quality until you are ready to serve.
– Avoiding bulk and impulse purchases, especially produce and dairy products.
– When eating out, bring leftovers home and refrigerate or freeze within two hours.
The FDA is working with federal partners and stakeholders—possibly in your own community—to help consumers better understand the variety of actions they can take to reduce food waste.
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