Government officials as well as nutritionists are urging the public to eat more fruits and vegetables—good advice. They say we should plan our dinners around fruits, vegetables and grains, instead of starting with meat, fish or chicken. Americans are responding and are consuming more of these healthy foods. These foods add nutrients to your diet that help protect you from heart disease, stroke and even some cancers. Choosing these foods over high-calorie foods can help you manage your weight as well.
But food safety officials are concerned about the increase in foodborne illness (food poisoning) linked to fruits and vegetables, as they sometimes contain harmful germs. Nearly half of foodborne illnesses are caused by germs on fresh produce.
Moreover, sprouts are becoming increasingly associated with outbreaks of foodborne illness as well. 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 foodborne disease.
At home: wash your hands, kitchen utensils, and food preparation surfaces, including chopping boards and countertops, before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
Clean fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting or cooking unless the package says the contents have been washed.
Washing fruit and vegetables in vinegar is a good way to remove potential bacteria. Use a solution of three parts water and one-part vinegar. Actually, some experts use 5 parts water to one-part vinegar. Plain cool water is also effective at removing most bacteria.
Most people already know non-organic produce will contain traces of pesticides that need to be rinsed off before eating. But even if your produce is organic or comes straight from the farm, it still needs to be washed. Salads should be refrigerated until just before use.
The single most important action any food handler can take to prevent foodborne illness is hand washing.