The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that every year 76 million people in the United States get infected from a food-borne disease. The most common food-borne diseases associated with produce are E. coli, Norovirus and Hepatitis A. People become sick by eating contaminated foods or by coming in contact with someone who has a food-borne illness. Certain people are at higher risk for complications related to food-borne illnesses. Babies, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weak immune symptoms are at higher risk for severe infections.
Here are a few food safety tips from the CDC:
- Buy wisely. Don’t buy produce that is bruised or damaged. When buying fresh cut produce, choose only items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
- Refrigerate promptly. Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetable (e.g. strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms) should be stored in a clean refrigerator at temperature of 40 degrees or below.
- Prepare produce with clean hands. Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before preparing fresh produce.
- Wash produce thoroughly. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water. Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush. All unpackaged fruits and vegetables, as well as those packaged and not marked pre-washed, should be thoroughly rinsed before eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce from a grocery store or farmer’s market. Also, produce marked pre-washed should be thoroughly rinsed as well. Lastly, do not use soap to wash your foods. Soap can leave residue on your food which may be unsafe for digestion.
- Don’t cross contaminate. Don’t give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another. Use one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked such as raw meat, and another for ready-to-eat foods such as raw fruits and vegetables. In addition, wash cutting boards, utensils and counter tops with soapy water after preparing each food item and before moving on to the next food item.