Eating fresh vegetables and fruits is a vital element of a healthy diet. It could help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases. On the other hand, dirty or contaminated vegetables and fruits, even if they’re fresh, could cause all sorts of foodborne illnesses. Contamination could come from fertilizer, soil, water, birds or wild animals, unsanitary methods, and from improper preparation or handling. With this in mind, below are some tips from a top food safety supervisor in QLD to prevent foodborne illness when buying, handling, storing and eating fresh vegetables and fruits:
- Avoid purchasing vegetables and fruits that are damaged or bruised.
- Store them away from frozen or fresh raw foods like seafood, poultry and meat.
- Always clean your hands with warm running water and soap prior to preparing vegetables and fruits, or any food for that matter.
- Utilise running, clean water when cleaning vegetables and fruits.
- Clean a vegetable and fruits that have rinds, such as squash, oranges, cantaloupes, pineapples, and melons, prior to preparing and peeling them.
- Clean and then scrub vegetables and fruits that have rough, firm surfaces like potatoes, before peeling. Use a stiff scrub brush.
- Although you could use pre-cut and packaged produce that says ‘prewashed’ in the packaging without cleaning them first, consider washing them just to be safe.
- Throw away the outer, wilted or damaged leaves of vegetables that were grown near or in the ground, like cabbage or lettuce.
- Always use different cutting boards for raw foods and fresh produce. If you only have one cutting board, wash it first with soapy, hot water after using it for raw foods. Sanitise it after using a solution of bleach and water.
- Place vegetables and fruits in your refrigerator after you peel, cut, or cook them. If stored at room temperature for two hours or more, throw them away.
While fresh vegetables and fruits are a necessary and crucial part of a nutritious and healthy diet, almost any food, yes, even fresh vegetables and fruits, could present a major health risk if it’s contaminated or dirty. So keep these tips in mind for healthy and safe eating.