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Extension > Food > Food safety > Preserving and preparing > Fruits > Handling fresh fruits and vegetables safely

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vegetables and fruits

Handling fresh fruits and vegetables safely

Suzanne Driessen

Fresh produce may become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and parasites at any point during its farm to table journey. Safe handling of produce can reduce contamination so you don't get sick.

Wash all fresh produce under running, drinking water before peeling, cutting or eating

What about pesticide residues left on fruits and vegetables?

Keep in mind that the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables outweigh the possible presence of pesticides. The FDA, USDA and EPA strictly control pesticides. If there is any pesticide residue on the fruit or vegetable, it should be under the regulations and safe to eat. A lot of the pesticides are water-soluble and will come off with water, which is another reason to wash fruit and vegetables before you eat them.

Safe preparation

Safe storage

Soaking produce is not recommended

The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend soaking produce or storing it in standing water. Instead:

Is it necessary to dry produce after washing it?

Drying produce with a paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present. Drying is not necessary for items that will be cooked. Greens like spinach, chard, kale and collards should be cooked wet as drying them may affect the quality of the cooked product.

Cleaning products for produce: To use or not to use?

What about washing produce with baking soda, vinegar or produce washes?

Do you need to wash leafy greens sealed in bags?


Fight Bac! Like a Produce Pro. Partnership for Food Safety Education. Retrieved on June 17, 2016 from

New Antimicrobial Wash for Fresh Produce. January 2016. United States Department of Agriculture AgResearch Magazine.

Revised by Suzanne Driessen 2016

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