SATURDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Picnics, parades and
cookouts are as much a part of Memorial Day weekend as tributes to
the United States' war veterans.
But, before tucking into that leafy, green salad or strawberry
shortcake, remember that fresh fruits and vegetables can become
contaminated with harmful pathogens that cause food poisoning, such
listeria and norovirus, according to the Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics. The contamination occurs during harvesting and can
even affect fruits and vegetables grown locally or in a home
garden, the group noted.
"One in six Americans gets sick every year from foodborne
pathogens that you cannot see, smell or taste but are everywhere.
Eating any contaminated product -- even produce labeled as organic
or locally grown -- can lead to food poisoning or even death,"
Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian and academy spokeswoman, said
in an academy news release. "Fruits and vegetables are an important
part of a healthy eating plan, and should fill half of your plate,
but just like any food product, extra precautions should be taken
to reduce the risk of food poisoning."
To help ensure that Americans safely buy, store and prepare
produce, the academy, in collaboration with ConAgra, offered the
- Avoid produce with mold, bruises or cuts that can harbor
- Buy loose produce rather than pre-packaged.
- Wash and dry all fruits and vegetables (even pre-packaged
produce) with cool tap water before preparing or eating.
- Use a knife to cut away any damaged areas on fruit or
The experts added that when preparing fresh produce, it's
important to avoid cross-contamination with other raw foods.
"Cross-contamination can lead to food poisoning when juices from
raw foods like meat, poultry or chicken come in contact with
ready-to-eat foods like raw produce," Krieger said. "Using two
cutting boards and a color-code system can help: one color cutting
board for raw meats; and the other for your fruits and
The group also pointed out that cooked fruits and vegetables
should be discarded after three to four days to avoid food
poisoning. They advised people to label produce with an "eat by"
date to ensure they know when food is no longer safe to eat.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
more information on
foodborne illness in the United States.
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