Local News

Fresh Produce Should Be Cleaned Before Being Served

Posted July 6, 2001

— When you think of fresh produce, you probably think it is safe, and normally it is. But recent salmonella outbreaks traced to imported cantaloupes from Mexico have local food experts sending out a warning that you need to make sure your produce is safe.

The state Farmers Market, where many shop, is packed with red ripe tomatoes, corn on the cob and shoppers eager to buy the freshest produce around.

This time of year, fresh produce looks so good you might be tempted to pop a few berries in your mouth the second you buy them. But just as you should not eat uncooked chicken, you should never eat fruit without washing it first, because food-borne illness can occur if produce is not handled or stored properly.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture wants to make sure people know the safety guidelines for preparing fruits and vegetables.

"We haven't see (those types of problems) with our North Carolina or locally grown produce. We're extremely confident that the products that are out on the market today are safer," says Joseph Reardon, North Carolina agricultural food supervisor.

"What we're wanting to say is, do enjoy these fresh produce fruits and vegetables, but at the same time practice good produce prep," says Reardon.

That includes washing all fruits and vegetables in cool tap water immediately before eating. You should scrub cantaloupes, melons, and cucumbers with a clean brush during washing to remove surface dirt. Wash cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water after contact with fresh produce. And be sure to wash your hands before and after handling fresh produce.

You should also keep prepared fruit salads and other cut produce in the refrigerator until serving, and throw out any cut produce items if they have been out of the fridge for more than four hours.

Reardon says the guidelines are not designed to scare you away from eating fresh produce. He says that, if anything, it should make people want to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables.

"If you look around the Farmers Market today, (the produce is) beautiful and fresh and in ample supply. We encourage them to stop by and enjoy these locally grown commodities," says Reardon.

Which is what a trip to the Farmers Market is all about.


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