Properly Preparing Produce

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - Despite an earlier report, the tainted spinach outbreak hasn't found its way to Tennessee just yet.

However, one person from Kentucky was treated in Nashville for E. coli illness.

The E. coli outbreak has the feds warning all Americans to throw out bagged fresh spinach in their refrigerators.

In this outbreak, even washing bagged spinach will not solve the problem, because the bacteria attaches too tightly.

But there are precautions you should take when preparing any fruits and vegetables.

The USDA's food guide pyramid recommends you eat three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits everyday.

This will provide some of the nutrients you need to maintain a healthful diet.

But with the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables come some risks.

"And any point from the time it's grown, to the time it's eaten, it goes through so many different levels that bacteria can seep into any one of those, so it's up to the consumer to take the precaution," says registered dietician and nutritionist Sandy Altizer.

Salmonella and E. coli are among the most common, but hundreds of bacteria can contaminate your produce at any time.

They can incubate in your body for hours, days or even weeks before making you sick.

But there are some precautions you can take.

Wash your hands and clean all kitchen surfaces.

Place the produce in a colander and run cold water over it.

Then wash each piece individually.

"You'll want to peel this away, typically this outside layer will be mostly intact, so it leaves you a nice, clean surface to begin with," explains Altizer. "Now, what you'll want to do is peel off each individual leaf of lettuce, wash it individually under the cold running water."

Produce with skin, like apples and oranges require a different technique, whether you plan to eat the skin, or not.

"If you have a scrubby brush, a vegetable brush, take that and gently rub the outside. If you notice any bruising, cut that out because that's what can harbor the bacteria," Altizer says.

Let all produce air dry on a clean surface, and store any leftovers in an air-tight container in your refrigerator.

It's not recommended you dry produce with a dish towel, because that in itself can harbor bacteria.

And, what about using those vegetable washes or baking soda solutions?

Experts say cool, clean water and a good scrubbing will work just as well.


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