Each year, approximately 48 million people are affected by food tainted with hazardous microorganisms, according to federal health experts, and some of the causes may surprise you.
Although most people are aware that animal products must be handled with care to avoid illness, produce can also be a source of foodborne illness outbreaks. In recent years, tainted fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and lettuce, have caused many severe outbreaks of disease in the United States.
Choose food that isn't bruised or damaged if at all possible, and keep pre-cut items like lettuce bags or watermelon slices chilled or on ice both in the shop and at home, according to the FDA. In addition, adhere to the following guidelines:
- 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 the fruit or vegetable.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.