It used to be that you just had to worry about convincing kids to eat the fruits and vegetables they need to grow healthy and strong. But recent outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella remind us of another concern — making sure fresh produce is safe to eat.
Even with the risk of food-borne illnesses, it's important for kids to eat fruits and vegetables every day to get essential vitamins and nutrients. For example, fruits like oranges provide vitamin C, which helps heal cuts and wounds. Vegetables like broccoli contain dietary fiber, which can help keep cholesterol down and bowel movements regular.
The good news is that it's easy to make sure that the produce you buy and prepare is safe.
From the Store to Your Refrigerator
Regardless of the variety of produce you pick — whether it's bagged or loose, organic or traditionally grown — there's always going to be some chance, however small, that harmful bacteria may have gotten on the food. It can happen anywhere between the fields and your kitchen, during picking, transporting, or packaging.
The safeguards you can take begin when you're selecting produce at the store. Be sure to inspect fruits and vegetables before you buy them, and avoid any with visible cuts or broken skin where bacteria could enter.
Also keep these things in mind:
- With prepared produce, such as bagged salad, select only items that are stored on ice or refrigerated. Be sure to check the best-used-by date.
- If your drive home is longer than an hour, consider bringing a cooler in the car to keep any pre-bagged and pre-cut produce fresh.
- At the grocery store, separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from produce and other foods in your shopping cart and grocery bags.
You've probably seen the term "Certified Organic" on USDA labels indicating that a product was grown or made without pesticides, synthetic ingredients, or bioengineering. However, bacterial contamination is possible whether the produce is certified organic or conventionally grown.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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