Keep Healthy Foods Safe: Wash Fruits and Vegetables

Keep Healthy Foods Safe: Wash Fruits and Vegetables

The Greek goddess Aphrodite was broken-hearted when she heard Adonis had perished. Myth has it her tears fell to earth as red hearts -- and strawberries were created! This healthy fruit delivers a phytonutrient called anthocyanins that can help slash your risk of a broken heart. Ironic, no? Eating berries three times a week helps prevent heart attack!

But you want to get the benefits of eating berries without risking a tummy ache, diarrhea, or worse. Berries, along with leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes, and sprouts, are the fresh produce most likely to trigger food-borne illness. That’s because fresh produce can harbor salmonella, norovirus, E. coli and other trouble-makers if fruits and vegetables are exposed to contaminated water or mishandled during processing or shipping. Produce can also pick up bacteria in your kitchen if you don’t store or cook ‘em correctly or they come in contact with raw meat or seafood.

Here’s how to safely handle fresh produce at home:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling fruits and veggies.
  • Cut away discolored or soft spots and outside or wilted leaves. Skip eating sprouts unless cooked.
  • Wash produce in running water without soap or disinfectant, even if you’re going to peel or cook it. Dry to further remove contaminants.  
  • Scrub firm produce like melons, potatoes, or cucumbers with a vegetable brush. Dry well.
  • Store all fresh produce in the refrigerator at 40F.
  • Cooking produce to 160F, for even a few seconds, will kill parasites, viruses and most bacteria. Take extra care cooking potatoes (or keeping them warm) in aluminum foil—it’s a greenhouse for microorganisms.

Related: How to Safely Buy Fruits and Vegetables

Medically reviewed in December 2018.

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