Food Safety & Preservation Latest food safety and preservation information from Cook County Extension Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Washing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Thu, 07 Apr 2011 18:24:00 +0000 It is no secret that fresh produce can harbor bacteria, fungi, and other microbes along with trace amounts of chemicals. Soil, dirt and dust will cling to fresh produce as well. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help improve the safety of your fresh fruits and vegetables. The following are recommendations from the University of Colorado Extension.

Under running water, rub firm fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands or use a stiff vegetable brush to 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. Always use cool water to wash produce.

Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent or bleach solutions. Many types of fresh produce are porous and could absorb these chemicals, changing their safety and taste.

The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend the use of chemical rinses, which are often sold in the produce section of some supermarkets. In research conducted at the University of Maine, these products were not proven to be any more effective than a plain water rinse. And they are extremely expensive.

Adding vinegar to the water (1/2 cup distilled white vinegar per 1 cup water), followed by a clean water rinse, has been shown to reduce bacterial contamination but may affect texture and taste. After washing, blot dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.

Washing Fresh Produce

Start clean. Cleanliness and safe produce go hand in hand. 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.

Buy local. During the growing season, buy locally grown produce. Reducing transport time and distance can help limit the chances of contamination and bacterial growth. At the Farmers Market, produce is not kept cool. It is important to refrigerate, as soon as possible to retain freshness.

Supermarket produce. Produce that needs to be refrigerated at the market should also be kept cool at home. Cut melon and salad greens should be kept on cool at the supermarket. Cucumbers and apples are often coated with edible wax to retain moisture.

Limit quantities. Most fresh vegetables can only be stored for two to five days, although apples, onions, potatoes, and winter squash can last much longer at appropriate temperatures.

Wait to wash. 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 chose to wash before storing, dry thoroughly with clean paper towels before storing.

Store safely. 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.

Trim well. Cut tops and the outer portions of celery, lettuce, cabbage, and other leafy vegetables that may be bruised and contain more dirt and pesticide residues.

Leafy green vegetables - Separate and individually rinse the leaves of lettuce and other greens, discarding the outer leaves if torn and bruised. Leaves can be difficult to clean so immersing the leaves in a bowl of cold water and swishing for a few minutes helps loosen sand, grit, and dirt. Lift greens out of the water, grit will sink to the bottom. Repeat if necessary.

Apples, cucumbers and other firm produce - Wash well or peel to remove waxy preservative. Use a brush dedicated to washing firm produce.

Root vegetables - Peel potatoes, carrots, turnips and other root vegetables, or clean them well with a firm scrub brush under lukewarm running water.

Melons - The rough, netted surfaces of some types of melon provide an excellent environment for microorganisms that can be transferred to the interior surfaces during cutting. To minimize the risk of cross contamination, use a vegetable brush and wash melons thoroughly under running water before refrigerating, cutting, peeling or slicing.

Peaches, plums and other soft fruit - Wash under running water and dry with a paper towel.

Grapes, cherries and berries - Store unwashed until ready to use. Separate and discard spoiled or moldy fruit before storing to prevent the spread of spoilage. Wash gently under cool running water just before use.

Mushrooms Place in a colander, spray with cold water, clean with a soft brush or wipe with a wet paper towel to remove dirt.

Herbs - Rinse by dipping and swishing in a bowl of cool water and drain in a colander, use clean kitchen towels, a salad spinner, or dry with paper towels.

Add fresh vegetables, berries, and melons to your meals. Remember, variety is the spice of life. Eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables every day.

Source: Drusilla M. Banks, MS; Extension Specialist, Food Science and Nutrition Programming


FDA. 2009. Safe Handling of Raw Produce and Fresh-Squeezed Fruit and Vegetable Juices.

US Food and Drug Administration. Stolpa, D. 2008. Washing Fruits and Vegetables - Why and How. University of Minnesota Extension.

1A. Zander, Extension Agent, Boulder County; M. Bunning, Extension food safety specialist and assistant professor, department of food science and human nutrition. 3/2010.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.]]>
Need a Warm up? Here's a Spicy Fall Dish. Mon, 25 Oct 2010 15:15:00 +0000 As the weather gets chilly, you may be looking for a heartier, spicy meal. Green chilies can still be found in-season around Chicago. We just finished picking the last of our hot peppers at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Look to our urban hort website to learn more about fall gardening. If you do not have a garden at home, look to your local farmers market or grocery to find fresh chilies for the recipe below. Most farmers markets will be closing after October. So don't delay!

Recipe shared from Fiesta of Flavors, also in Spanish.

Beef with Green Chile


1½ pounds lean beef (such as sirloin)
2 cups diced green chile (roasted and peeled, fresh or frozen)
¾ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch


1. Cut beef into chunks or strips.

2. Add all ingredients except cornstarch.

3. Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. You may need to add a little water so mixture simmers well. (Don't add too much water or mixture will get soupy.)

4. Add cornstarch to small amount of water to make a
smooth paste. Add to meat mixture and stir.

5. Cook until cornstarch thickens (about 5 more minutes).

Note: This dish can be served as an entree or as a burrito filling. When you buy flour tortillas for burritos, choose those that are thinner or smaller, because they have fewer calories and carbohydrate.

Nutrition Facts

Servings per Recipe: Yields 6 servings, each one equal to 2/3 cup

Amount Per Serving

Calories 210

Calories from Fat 60

Total Fat 7 g

Cholesterol 65 mg

Sodium 290 mg

Carbohydrate 7 g

Dietary Fiber 0 g

Protein 27 g

Exchange 4 lean meat

Carbohydrate Units 0.5

Pick Your Apples Now! Sat, 09 Oct 2010 15:53:00 +0000 According to the Chicago Tribune local apple orchards have been picked bare. A warm spring and summer moved up the fall picking season, while some local farmers endured spring freezes that cut their harvests by as much as 40 percent from last year.

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Fun Food Safety Music Videos Sat, 09 Oct 2010 15:36:00 +0000 The project title is "Improving Food Safety Education Through Use of Music-Based Curricula" and the Project Director is Carl Winter at the University of California, Davis. Other cooperating educational institutions on the project are the University of Idaho, Clemson University, the University of Delaware, and North Carolina State University.

My favorite video is "Don't be a Gambler" which shows you how to properly prepare burgers. Another great video especially for kids is "You Better Wash Your Hands" sung to the Beatles song, "I Want Hold Your Hand". Other videos include "We Are the Microbes", "Don't Get Sticky Wit It", "Stomachache Tonight" and "Veggie Believer". Audio versions are also available on the Web site.

Food Safety Music Videos

Best Practices: Handling Fresh Produce in Schools Sun, 03 Oct 2010 23:26:00 +0000 Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Introducing children to them in schools will improve their present and future health. Fresh produce must be handled safely to reduce the risks of foodborne illness. There are a number of steps that foodservice employees can take to minimize the chances for fruits and vegetables they handle to become contaminated. Best practices for handling all types of produce are described in this fact sheet, along with practices specific to leafy greens, tomatoes, melons, and sprouts.

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Apples are Peaking: Choose the Best Preservation Method Sun, 03 Oct 2010 21:21:00 +0000 Did you know that once an apple tree begins to bear fruit, it will do so for a century? Today, there are over 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States. Fall weather brings the best fresh apples in bushels.

How can I preserve these apples while they are peaking, you ask? Preserved apple products can add lots of variety to the menu. Apples can be dried, made into applesauce or apple butter, or even made into a delicious apple pear jam. Apples do not make the highest quality canned or frozen slices, but they can be preserved by those methods, also.

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Resources for Home Preserving Pumpkins Sat, 02 Oct 2010 17:24:00 +0000 Pumpkins offer far more than a door-stop at Halloween. Make them do double duty. Instead of carving a face in your Halloween pumpkin, use nontoxic paint or marker pens to create a unique face. After Halloween has passed, the pumpkin flesh inside can be preserved by canning, drying, freezing, and it makes excellent freezer or refrigerator preserves. Pumpkin seeds can also be dried and roasted.

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