Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tips for buying and storing fresh produce

Fruits and veggies are an important addition to our daily food intake. They are chock full of vitamins and nutrients, and at least 5 servings per day, are recommended for a healthy diet. But those yummy fruits and veggies can also be carriers of food-borne illnesses that, oftentimes, can be fatal, so it's very important to handle those products in a safe manner, especially for those who are Raw Foodies.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some great tips on how to safely handle fresh produce. The following information is courtesy of the FDA:

Buying Tips:

*when selecting fresh-cut produce, choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

* Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood when packing them to take home.

Storage Tips:

* Store certain perishable fresh fruits and veggies (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees F. or below.

* All produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated.

Preparation and Handling Tips:

* Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

* Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits before preparing or eating. If it looks rotten, it should be discarded.

* All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and veggies under running water before eating, cutting or cooking.

* Even if you plan to peel the produce beofre eating it, it is still important to wash it first.

* Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
* Drying produce with a clean towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.

* Many pre-cut, bagged produce items such as lettuce are pre-washed. If so, it will be stated on the packaging. This pre-washed, bagged produce can be used without further washing. As an extra measure of caution, you can wash the produce again just before you use it. Pre-cut or pre-washed produce in open bags should be washed before using.

Focus On: Health Risks with Raw Sprouts

Raw sprouts that are served on salads, wraps, and sandwiches may contain bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. Rinsing sprouts first will not remove bacteria. Home-grown sprouts also present a health risk if they are eaten raw or lightly cooked.

To reduce the risk of illness, do not eat raw sprouts such as bean, alfalfa, clover, or radish sprouts. All sprouts should be cooked thoroughly before eating to reduce the risk of illness.

This advice is particularly important for children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems, all of whom are at risk of developing serious illness due to food-borne disease.

In addition, be sure to:

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry and seafood products and the preparation of produce that will not be cooked.

For added protection, kitchen sanitizers can be used on cutting boards and counter tops periodically. Try a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.
If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use.

I eat raw sprouts, but I make sure I wash them thoroughly before eating them. I also happen to wash all my fruits and veggies, even those that state they are pre-washed. You can never be sure.

But there's a saying in Spanish "Mugre que no mata, engorda." Or in other words, "dirt that doesn't kill, fattens", so I also don't go crazy.
Happy munching!


Frasypoo said...

Ever since I decide to go on a diet,I realise that I have been eating a lot of veggies.
That one on sprouts sounds a little scary.The Farmers Market that I go to always has the best looking sprouts and I am so tempted.At home we eat it with lemon juice squeezed on it.Of course it also has hamburger in it!!
Otherwise it is sprouts with cucumbers and tomatoes chopped in cubes.

Incognito said...

Veggies are best for everything from dieting to just plain old better health.

As long as you thoroughly wash the sprouts I think you'll be fine. They do have some veggie washes that you can by in the health food stores, but just run it under water for a while. I don't think I'd eat them at a restaurant, though.