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Food poisoning, or foodborne illness, occurs when someone consumes food that has been contaminated with toxins, viruses, or bacteria. For some people, food poisoning can cause mild symptoms that are barely noticeable, while others may become severely ill and require medical intervention.

To avoid food poisoning, the FDA has recommended eight different tips when cleaning fruits and vegetables. Jump to this section now.

Interested in learning more about food poisoning first? Find the topic below that interests you the most:

At-Risk Individuals of Food Poisoning

Certain individuals may be more prone to food poisoning, so it's important to be aware of this as your customers and staff may fall into these categories.

Here's a few individuals especially at-risk for food poisoning:

  1. Children and babies
  2. Chronically ill individuals
  3. Pregnant people
  4. Elderly individuals

Now that you're aware of at-risk individuals, it's important to understand which food items can affect these groups. Although many people associate food poisoning with certain food items such as meat or cheese, foodborne illness is often the result of vegetables and leafy greens.

Studies showed that certain leafy greens, especially those prepared raw, can become contaminated with bacteria and have led to a significant portion of food poisoning outbreaks in the U.S. It is important that you educate yourself and your staff how to reduce risks within your establishment, such as sources of harmful bacteria like Listeria, E. coli, Salmonella, and ultimately food poisoning.

How Do Vegetables & Leafy Greens Carry Bacteria?

Food Poisoning

This contamination can occur throughout the stages of the supply chain. Dirty equipment, unhygienic practices during transportation, or even uncleaned store shelves are a few culprits. This means that vegetables and fruits should be continuously washed and kept clean before being served. We recommend storing produce in these spacious refrigerators. They're a clean, safe place to keep your fruits and vegetables, and you can make sure they're kept at regulated temperatures.

With safety concerns at an all-time high, having safe food preparation practices in your establishment is key to minimizing risk.

Reducing Contamination Risk by Washing Fruits & Vegetables

Washing Fruits and Vegetables

As someone who owns or runs a restaurant or food establishment of any type, keeping your guests safe should be a top priority. Guests who eat at your establishment trust you to prepare food safely. If they get sick eating food prepared by you, you could get a reputation for being an unsafe foodservice provider.

Read below to see the eight different FDA recommended steps you can take to ensure produce has been properly washed.

Practice Safe Food Hygiene in Your Establishment

Safe Food Hygiene

Establishing good habits in your kitchen or foodservice establishment is essential to keeping your guests safe. Whether you have increased fears due to the COVID-19 pandemic or you would like to reduce germs that could cause food poisoning in your kitchen, an effective place to start is with food preparation.

In addition to knowing how to properly clean fruits and vegetables, you should ensure your establishment is staffed with the proper knives, cutting boards, and other tools for food preparation. You should also have the right type of food storage and labels to indicate the produce which has been pre-washed to avoid washing anything a second time.

Eight Tips to Washing Fruits and Vegetables

Washing Fruits and Vegetables

If you serve vegetables and fruits in your facility or have a salad bar, there are a few steps you can take to ensure produce is properly cleaned:

A few major types of cooking equipment which may be essential to your business include:

  1. Use proper hand washing techniques: Before preparing or cleaning any type of food, especially fresh vegetables or leafy greens, wash your hands with hot water and anti-bacterial soap before and after touching or preparing produce. See our full article on hand washing to learn more helpful tips.
  2. Keep vegetables and fruits separate from other foods: When preparing or cutting vegetables or other produce, ensure that they are kept away from other types of food, especially raw meat, cheese, or other high-risk items.
  3. Remove damage or bruising: Before preparing, cutting, or serving produce, cut away any areas that have already been bruised or damaged. Although this may seem wasteful, damaged produce may not be safe to consume.
  4. Rinse produce before peeling: Ensure bacteria and dirt is removed from the produce before it is peeled or cut by rinsing it thoroughly before you begin cutting or peeling. Need peelers? Start here.
  5. Gently rub delicate produce: Produce like mushrooms, berries, or other small vegetables and fruits should be washed carefully to remove loose dirt and not washed under a heavy stream or scrubbed.
  6. Use a brush on firm produce: Even if you are going to peel or remove a rind from fruit or vegetables, you should scrub the outside with water and a firm brush. Cutting these items without washing them could transfer harmful bacteria.
  7. Remove outer leaves of leafy greens: The outer leaves of heads of cabbage and lettuce typically contain the most bacteria and are often damaged. Removing them and discarding them before cleaning and preparing the rest of the vegetable can help minimize additional risk.
  8. Dry produce after washing: Drying produce gently with a clean towel or paper towel after they have been washed is essential to prevent bacteria from being spread. If you are not going to use the items right away, you may want to put them in a container.

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