Safe Handling of Fresh Produce

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Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of the importance of handling fresh produce safely to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Fresh fruits and vegetables do not naturally contain microorganisms (bacteria, parasites or viruses) that can make you sick. However, produce can become contaminated while in the field or through improper handling, storage, or transportation during or after harvest.

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide recommends that Canadians eat a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables. But, as with any food, it is important that fresh produce be handled and stored properly to reduce the chances of illness. It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of foodborne illness in Canada every year.

You can minimize the risk of foodborne illness by following these safety tips:

Separate: Fresh produce can become contaminated when it comes into contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat both at the store and at home—in your refrigerator, on cutting boards and countertops.

Clean: Before preparing food, always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, using soap and hot water. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables gently under cool running water. Fruit and vegetables that are usually peeled or cut, like melons, oranges and cucumbers, also need to be washed gently under cool, running water. Also, scrub fruits and vegetables that have a firm surface, such as melons, potatoes and carrots. Do not soak fruits and vegetables in a sink full of water. The sink can harbour bacteria, which can be transferred to anything in it. It is not necessary to use anything other than water to wash produce.

Chill: Store fresh fruits and vegetables that need refrigeration in the refrigerator at 4ºC (40ºF) or below. All cut fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated and should not be kept at room temperature for longer than two hours.

For more information on Fresh Produce Safety please visit Health Canada's website.