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Published September 23, 2009, 08:09 AM

Keep fresh fruits and vegetables safe to eat

Whether you grow your own produce or buy it at a farmers market or grocery store, fruits and vegetables are a colorful and healthful part of our diets. Now is a great time to brighten your plate with some of the fresh produce that’s coming into season.

By: Luella Morehouse, NDSU Extension Service, The Jamestown Sun

Whether you grow your own produce or buy it at a farmers market or grocery store, fruits and vegetables are a colorful and healthful part of our diets. Now is a great time to brighten your plate with some of the fresh produce that’s coming into season.

As you enjoy fresh produce and fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, it’s important to handle these products safely in order to reduce the risks of food-borne illness.

How should you clean fresh fruits and vegetables?

Use plenty of running water and a produce brush, if necessary, to clean fresh produce. Don’t use bleach, soap or other detergents on fresh produce because these cleansers aren’t meant to be eaten.

Is it safe to eat the bruised parts of fruits and vegetables?

It’s safest to remove and throw away bruised or damaged parts of fruits and vegetables. Those parts are most likely to contain germs. Be sure to check fresh fruits and vegetables for bruises and other damage at the store.

How long is cut-up fruit safe?

Refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within two hours. When serving, nest the bowl of cut-up fruit in a larger bowl filled with ice.

Why are some fruits and vegetables waxed? Is the wax safe to eat?

Waxing helps keep fruits and vegetables fresh. It protects them from losing moisture and helps prevent bruising and mold growth. The wax is safe to eat, and only a tiny amount is used. The body doesn’t digest wax. If you prefer unwaxed produce, check if the store where you shop offers unwaxed produce. You also can peel the product, but you’ll lose fiber and nutrients.

Are there any concerns about fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices?

Most of the juices sold in the United States are processed (for example, pasteurized) to kill harmful bacteria. But when fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed and left untreated, harmful bacteria from the inside or the outside of the produce can become a part of the finished product. If you make your own juice, wash the fruit before pressing and heat the juice to at least 160°F to kill bacteria. Store the juice in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.

Do bagged salads that are labeled “ready to eat” need to be washed?

Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled “washed,” triple washed” or “ready to eat” do not need to be washed.

If you would like the “FN-608 Fight BAC: Safe Handling of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables” publication, contact Luella Morehouse, FNP Education Assistant, NDSU Extension Service Stutsman County, 116 1/2 First St. E., Jamestown, ND. You can reach Morehouse at 252-9030 or luella.morehouse@ndsu.edu.

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