Tips for handling ready-to-eat produce
Corinne Powell April 30, 2012 4:32PM
Updated: June 3, 2012 8:04AM
Precut, bagged, prewashed produce has increased in popularity over the last few years. The convenience of ready-to-eat bagged produce has allowed consumers with hectic lifestyles to add healthy leafy greens, fruits and other vegetables to their diet easily. Recent recalls of ready-to-eat bagged produce have raised questions on how to handle it safely at home.
When preparing any fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.
■ Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.
■ Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or purchased from a grocery store or farmers market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
■ Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
■ Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
■ Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
While we recommend that you wash intact produce, such as apples, head lettuce, and whole carrots before preparation and consumption, many precut, bagged, or packaged produce items like mixed salad greens are prewashed and ready-to-eat. It is unlikely that consumer washing of such products will make the product cleaner compared to a commercial triple wash. It is possible that the additional handling may contaminate a product that was clean. If you’re not sure if your packaged produce is ready-to-eat, look at the label. If the package indicates that the contents have been prewashed and are ready-to-eat, you can use the product without further washing.
If you choose to wash a product marked “prewashed” and “ready-to-eat,” be sure to use safe-handling practices to avoid any cross contamination.
■ Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling the product.
■ Wash cutting boards, dishes, salad spinners, utensils, and countertops with hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and preparation of produce that will not be cooked.
■ Choose only ready-to-eat produce that is refrigerated or surrounded by ice before buying
■ Refrigerate all pre-cut, ready-to-eat produce promptly
■ Make sure that produce, including ready-to-eat produce, is not bruised or damaged
■ Separate ready-to-eat produce from raw meat, poultry and seafood in your refrigerator
■ Never use detergent or bleach to wash produce. These products are not intended for consumption.
■ Throw away ready-to-eat produce that has touched raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
■ Return any uneaten ready-to-eat produce to the refrigerator or discard.