2015 Dietary Guidelines and produce safety tips

Food safety tips for consuming fruit and vegetables.

The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation for a “healthy eating pattern” includes consuming fruits and vegetables. Food is viewed as a form of preventative medicine that can help avoid a range of health issues, according to the guidelines developed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. This is an easy thing to do providing care is taken when purchasing, storing and preparing your fruits and vegetables.

Food safety enters the picture with fresh produce because so many of these items are consumed raw. There is no cooking step involved where foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes can be killed. Following these tips from the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Fight BAC ® Like a produce pro will help consumers enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables at home.

  • Check fresh produce for signs of cuts or bruising, where harmful bacteria can breed. When choosing pre-cut fruits and veggies like packaged salads and sliced melons, check that the product is refrigerated or on ice.
  • Clean hands, surfaces and utensils to prevent contamination. Use hot water and soap on cutting boards and knives before and after prepping fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Rinse fruits and veggies just before eating. Rinse only the produce you plan to eat, including those with skins or rinds that will not be eaten. Utilize a clean brush to use on firm-skinned produce and a colander for small pieces of fruit. Do not use soap or bleach to wash produce, these products are not intended for consumption.
  • Separate produce from raw meat, seafood, poultry, eggs and household chemicals. Use separate bags when shopping and separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs when storing in the fridge. When prepping, do not use the same cutting board or utensils without cleaning with hot water and soap before and after different food items.
  • Chill cut fresh produce within two hours to prevent bacteria growth. Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Make sure all cut, peeled or cooked produce is refrigerated within two hours of prepping.
  • Throw away bruised, damaged or potentially cross-contaminated produce. Toss any produce that has not been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking. Remove and discard bruised or damaged portions of produce prior to cooking or consuming. Discard produce that has come in contact with raw meats, poultry, seafood or eggs.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Michigan State University Extension encourages consumers to follow the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines, engage in physical activity and apply food safety guidelines to their food prep habits to avoid foodborne illness. Applying healthy habits to your lifestyle is a positive step to beginning the New Year.

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