Fresh produce is the most nutrient rich form of fruits and vegetables but it’s important to properly store and clean them before you eat them. Fresh produce can harbor bacteria, fungi, and other microbes along with trace amounts of chemicals. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help improve the safety of fruits and vegetables.

Produce that requires refrigeration can be stored in vegetable bins or on shelves above raw meats, poultry, or seafood to prevent cross contamination. Storing fresh produce in cloth produce bags or perforated plastic bags will allow air to circulate. Do not keep cut, peeled or cooked fruits and vegetables at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90F) and store in the refrigerator in covered containers.

Washing produce before storing may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage, so it is often recommended to wait and wash fruits and vegetables just before use. Generally, soil has been removed from fresh produce but if not and you choose to wash before storing, dry thoroughly with clean paper towels before storing.
Before preparing fruits and vegetables, always wash your hands well with soap and water. Clean counter tops, cutting boards, and utensils with hot soapy water before peeling or cutting produce. Bacteria from the outside of raw produce can be transferred to the inside when it is being cut or peeled.

No washing method completely removes or kills all microbes which may be present on fruits and vegetables. Thoroughly rinsing fresh produce under running water is an effective way to reduce the number of microorganisms and helps remove dirt, bacteria, stubborn garden pests and residual pesticides. Rubbing fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands under running water will help remove dirt and surface microorganisms.

If immersing in water, a clean bowl is a better choice than the sink because the drain area often harbors microorganisms. Produce with a hard rind or firm skin may be scrubbed with a vegetable brush. Wash water should be no more than 10 degrees colder than produce to prevent the entrance of microorganisms into the stem or blossom end of the produce.

These are easy tips to store and clean your fruits and vegetables to eliminate bacteria growth and remove chemicals before you eat.