In light of recent produce recalls, the Louisiana Department of Health is reminding residents that taking a few extra moments to thoroughly wash all produce before eating or serving could save a life.
Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients, minerals and fiber that are essential to protect one's body from chronic illness, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they currently eat each day in order to meet dietary guidelines.
"Fruit and vegetable consumption plays a key role in our fight against obesity and other chronic diseases," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana State Health Officer. "We want to encourage Louisianians to make fruits and vegetables a staple in their homes and to always handle these items as carefully as one would an egg or a piece of raw poultry."
As residents enjoy produce and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, LDH is reminding them to that the harmful bacteria which leads to foodborne illness can occur at a number of different between the ground and the kitchen table. For instance, it could be in the soil or water where produce grows; during transportation; while on the shelves at the grocery store; in the refrigerator; or even while the food is being prepared.
Eating contaminated produce (or fruit and vegetable juices made from contaminated produce) can result in foodborne illness, which can cause serious - and sometimes fatal - infections. Fortunately, it's easy to avoid - just follow these buying, storage and preparation tips.
- Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
- When selecting fresh-cut produce - such as a half a watermelon or bagged salad greens - choose items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
- Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products.
- Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.
- Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.
- Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
- All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
- Many precut, bagged produce items like lettuce are pre-washed. If the package indicates that the contents have been pre-washed, you can use the produce without further washing.
- Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first.
- Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
- Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
- Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.
For more information on food safety, visit www.eatsafe.la.gov.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.