The FDA has released an article today detailing proper procedure for handling fresh produce. When you think of food borne illness, typically an association with beef, poultry, and seafood exists. However, the FDA warns that disease can also be spread in several ways through fruits and vegetables.
Contact with other foods, referred to as cross contamination, can be the culprit. For instance, if you were to lay a bed of lettuce on top of uncooked chicken breasts, there is a possibility of spreading salmonella. Poor hygiene is also a main source of food poisoning. If a food handler has not washed their hands correctly and they’ve been in contact with harmful bacteria, or spread any bodily fluid directly to the produce, they encourage an environment conducive to the growth of the bacteria. Even during the growth of fruits and vegetables, the soil or water used in the process could be contaminated, then spreading to the entire plant, including seeds.
In the fight against brain and spinal cord injury, it is especially important to understand the danger of food borne illness. The CDC also released recent findings dealing with this particular topic and its association to human prion disease. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE ), better known as “Mad Cow Disease,” Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), and chronic wasting disease (CWD), are all a form of prion disease contracted through unsafe food consumption. They almost always result in fatality, as they all affect the brain directly. Some side effects include deteriorating movement and motor skills, dementia, and loss of memory.
However, something as simple as increasing how we monitor cross contamination of produce and meat could prevent an endemic. The CDC wants the FDA to crack down on the implementation and enforcement of practices for proper food handling.
Fortunately, several ways to manage these risks exist. The FDA advises individuals to stay away from bruised or damage produce, as these fruits and vegetables could already be harboring agents of food borne illness. Also, consumers are encouraged to make sure that pre-cut fruits and vegetables are refrigerated or stored on ice prior to purchase, and kept to the same standard before serving. Here is a list of the specific tips from the FDA to mitigate the risk of spreading and contracting food borne illness:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
Costanzo, Francesca. (2011, May 23). CDC Assesses Potential Human Exposure To Prion Diseases. EurekAlert! – Science News. Retrieved May 23, 2011, from EurekAlert
FDA. (2011, May 23). 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables. U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Retrieved May 23, 2011, from FDA