Foodborne illnesses are, at best, no fun, and, at worst, can be fatal. Consumers can get information about current outbreaks and recalls from the U.S. FDA, the Indiana State Department of Health, or their local corresponding agencies.

Americans eat 274 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables every year, and only rarely does a person get sick from what he or she eats. Yet, it does happen, so food safety experts work to find ways to make illnesses even rarer. The consensus of food safety experts is that everyone who handles fresh produce (from the farmer to the final consumer) plays a role in reducing the risk that the produce will make someone sick. And even with everyone playing their role, the experts agree that we can’t guarantee that produce eaten raw will be 100 percent safe.

The consumer’s role begins in the grocery store or market. When you purchase a fruit or vegetable, you can protect it from contamination by putting it in a clean produce bag supplied by the store, using a clean shopping bag to carry it home, and transporting it in a clean vehicle.

Once at home, follow these practices:

  • Store produce in a clean environment and at the proper temperature for the product.
  • Before cutting, peeling, or eating, wash the fruit or vegetable under running water.
  • If the product can withstand brushing, then use a clean brush to scrub the surface.
  • Cut away decayed or bruised areas.
  • Don’t let cut produce remain unrefrigerated for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is above 90°F.
  • Always practice good sanitation in the kitchen.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before food preparation.
  • Use only clean utensils and cutting boards for produce.
  • Keep produce away from raw meat and eggs, and from utensils, cutting boards, or counters that have been used for those products and not yet washed and sanitized.
  • Clean and sanitize kitchen counters, storage areas, and refrigerators regularly.

Read current recommendations from the FDA for handling produce in the home kitchen here.

Learn more about produce safety for consumers by exploring the links below.

Fresh Produce Safety Tips from the Produce Lady at North Carolina State University.

The Education Store at Purdue includes publications about food preservation, food safety, and nutrition.

Eat Clean, Purdue University website with information and resources for professionals about fresh vegetable handling.