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For Release: April 29, 2008
Health Officials Encourage Safe Handling of Fresh Produce
As local grocery stores and farmers markets stock up on a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables during the spring and summer months, the Oklahoma State Department of Health urges consumers to remember to follow safe handling procedures of fresh produce to protect themselves and their families from the risk of food-related illness.
It is especially important to remember the role of safe food handling of fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw. Germs that can cause illness may have been in the soil or water where the produce was grown. Fresh produce may also become contaminated after it is harvested, such as during handling or storage.
The following recommendations for safe produce handling will help reduce the risk of food-related illness:
• Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.
• Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a refrigerator at a temperature of 40 º F or below. If you’re not sure whether an item should be refrigerated to maintain quality, ask your grocer.
• Always begin with clean hands. Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
Most of the juices sold in the grocery stores are pasteurized to kill harmful germs. When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed and left untreated, germs from the inside or the outside of the produce may become a part of the finished juice product. Some health food stores, cider mills, and farm markets sell containers of juice that have not been pasteurized, therefore possibly containing germs that could cause illness. To prevent illness, individuals should drink only juices that have been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful germs.
Follow this link for more information on Foodborne Illness.
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