Food Safety & Preparation


Wash your hands before preparing foods. Hands should be washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling fresh produce, raw meat, poultry or seafood, as well as after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.

Removing outer leaves or peeling may decrease the amount of pesticide residues or harmful microbes on fruits and vegetables. Wash all fruits and vegetables with cool tap water to remove dirt and residues. Some companies are marketing "produce cleaning" solutions, but these have not been proven more effective than plain water in removing microorganisms.

Scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush. Melons and cantaloupes have been involved in several cases of foodborne illness. Before slicing these fruits, the rind must be scrubbed thoroughly to prevent the knife from transferring bacteria to the cut surface.

Don't wash fruits and vegetables with household soaps and detergents; these products have not been approved for washing produce. Use clean cutting boards and utensils when handling fresh produce. Use one clean cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Wash surfaces often.

Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops should be washed with hot soapy water after coming in contact with fresh produce or raw meat, poultry or seafood. Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting. Discard cut produce left at room temperature for more than two hours.

At the serving table, don't let the outer rinds of melon or cantaloupe touch freshly cut surfaces. Use a cooler with ice or ice gel packs to transport or store cut fresh fruits and vegetables at picnics or other summer events. Keep raw meats in a separate cooler.

Susie Lyons is an instructional specialist, family and consumer sciences, for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.


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