Summer eating and food safety: Sweet, juicy melons
Melons are now available in markets and at fruit and vegetable stands. Food safety when purchasing and storing melons is important so follow these critical points.
It’s picnic season and having access to fresh produce is now easily accessible through markets and farmer stands. A common summer favorite is melons. Michigan State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) teach consumers about fruits and vegetables and how they will keep your body working at its best. Consuming a diet that meets the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to give your body a strong defense against disease. Food safety when purchasing produce like melons is important, so follow these critical points shared by Food Safety News:
- Purchasing criteria at the market: Do not purchase damaged, diseased or decayed melons. Select melons carefully, avoid excessive handling or use hand-cleaning aides.
- Look for a label on the melon. It will be difficult at first to tell if you are looking at the label used at the register for inventory and pricing (Universal Pricing Code – UPC barcode) or traceability information. The country of origin is clearly identified. If the market does not have labels on the melons or you cannot understand them, speak to the manager or vendor.
- Place these products into an individual plastic bag. Do not store them unprotected in a cart or in a cloth shopping bag. Go home as soon as possible; do not leave melons in a warm car.
- Once you arrive home: It is recommended that before storing at home, wash the melon in water just a little warmer than the fruit. The melon will likely warm up on its way home, so it is best to use warm water, not cold. Colder water will increase the absorption of water into the melon and drive bacteria further into the fruit.
- You can use a moderately stiff-bristle brush to assist in cleaning and a commercial vegetable wash, if desired.
- After washing, store the whole melon in the refrigerator in a new plastic bag or wrapper. Discard the old wrapper, but maintain traceability information along with your receipt of purchase. The refrigerator thermostat should be set to maintain the melon below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to place a refrigerator thermometer independent of the thermostat inside the refrigerator and adjust the temperature accordingly.
- Wash your hands and clean the sink and counter and all utensils after handling the melons. You can use a dilute solution of bleach (one teaspoon per gallon) and water or other household disinfectants designed for the kitchen, as a final step.
- Melon prep and serving: When preparing the melon, wash your hands before beginning; use a clean cutting board, utensils, food grade containers and equipment. Wash all of these items thoroughly after prep.
- After cutting, slicing or cubing, place in a clean covered container in the refrigerator.
- Store below 41 degrees Fahrenheit for up to seven days and then dispose of the remaining items (some bacteria that cause illness can actually grow in a prepared refrigerated product if you give them enough time).
- Maintain the cut melons below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. This may require ice, a cooler or other another method when away from home. If melons and dishes containing melons are stored at room temperature, dispose of the item after four hours.
Following these recommendations from USDA, MSU Extension and Food Safety News will help keep you and your food safe while enjoying this wonderful, sweet fruit.