Fruit, Vegetable & Fruit Juice, & Produce Tips (cont.)
Health Risks with Raw Sprouts
Raw sprouts that are served on salads, wraps, and sandwiches may contain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Rinsing sprouts first will not remove bacteria. Home-grown sprouts also present a health risk if they are eaten raw or lightly cooked.
Separate for Safety
Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood - and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
In addition, be sure to:
Fruit and Vegetable Juices
Most of the juices sold in the United States are processed (for example, "pasteurized") to kill harmful bacteria. But when fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed and left untreated, harmful bacteria from the inside or the outside of the produce can become a part of the finished product.
Those at risk for foodborne illness should not drink unpasteurized juice unless it is brought to a boil first.
Q&As about Fresh Produce
What is "organic produce"?
Organic produce is grown without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
Before a product can be labeled "organic," a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it reaches the supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
What is ethylene gas - and how does it affect produce?
Some fruits and vegetables - like bananas - naturally produce ethylene gas when they ripen. Oftentimes, such fruits and vegetables are harvested in the unripened state to preserve firmness and for long shelf life; they are later exposed to ethylene gas to induce ripening.
What does the "use-by" date mean on a package of fresh produce?
A "Best-If-Used-By- (or Before)" date is the last date recommended for peak quality as determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Why are wax coatings used on fruits and vegetables?
Many vegetables and fruits make their own natural waxy coating. After harvest, fresh produce may be washed to clean off dirt and soil - but such washing also removes the natural wax. Therefore, waxes are applied to some produce to replace the natural waxes that are lost.
Wax coatings help retain moisture to maintain quality from farm to table including:
Waxes also help inhibit mold growth, protect produce from bruising, prevent other physical damage and disease, and enhance appearance.
How are the waxes applied?
Waxes are used only in tiny amounts to provide a microscopic coating surrounding the entire product. Each piece of waxed produce has only a drop or two of wax.
Coatings used on fruits and vegetables must meet FDA food additive regulations for safety. Produce shippers and supermarkets in the United States are required by federal law to label fresh fruits and vegetables that have been waxed so you will know whether the produce you buy is coated. Watch for signs that say: "Coated with food-grade vegetable-, petroleum-, beeswax-, or shellac- based wax or resin, to maintain freshness."
Source: USDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Last Editorial Review: 5/9/2006