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For Release: April 26, 2012 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601
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 (OSDH) urges consumers to follow safe handling tips for 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.
During the growing season, fresh fruits and vegetables may carry harmful bacteria if they come in contact with manure, contaminated soil, water, or animal byproducts. During the harvesting process, produce may be contaminated due to contact with harmful fecal bacteria in storage containers, or on tools used for harvesting. After the produce is harvested there is a possibility for exposure to contaminated items at packing houses, storage, transportation, and contamination at the store. Produce can also come in contact with harmful bacteria at the consumer’s home during food preparation. Ultimately, people become sick when they eat produce contaminated with harmful bacteria. Each year the OSDH investigates foodborne disease outbreaks resulting from contaminated produce grown both in the U.S. and imported from other countries. Serious illnesses and even deaths among Oklahomans have been reported as a result of these outbreaks.
The OSDH encourages consumers to follow recommendations regarding safe food handling and discarding or returning any products that may have been implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks. In particular, consumers should consider the following buying, storage, and preparation tips for safe handling of fresh produce.
Tips for safe handling of fresh fruits and vegetables
Separation tips to prevent cross-contamination:
Fruit and Vegetable Juice Safety:
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 farmers’ markets sell containers of juice that have not been pasteurized, thus 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. Be aware that warning labels are not required for juice or cider that is fresh-squeezed and is sold by the glass at places like farm markets, roadside stands, or orchards.
For more information about produce safety and prevention of foodborne illnesses, please visit the OSDH website at www.health.ok.gov.
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