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Fruit and Food Safety - What You Need To Know

What You Need To Know About Fruit and Food safety

Raw fruits and vegetables can carry harmful germs such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria that can cause illness. A large percentage of foodborne illnesses are caused by  fruit and vegetables. Germs on the peel or skin may enter and contaminate the fruit, so even if you don't intend to eat the peel, always wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water before eating.

How does produce processing work?

After harvesting, the produce is not immediately sent to be packed and distributed to retailers. A key part of the production process involves getting rid of potentially harmful bacteria that are in the produce. All of these basic steps involve their own good practices for food safety but food safety must always start where the food is grown, like farms. Produce processing can include the following processes:

  • Washing and sanitizing
  • Sorting by color or size
  • Pasteurizing for juices
  • Adding preservatives to increase shelf life
  • Chopping or mixing
  • Cooking or freezing
  • Canning and packaging

Food Safety Best Practices for the Produce Industry 

Because fruits and vegetables need to be grown outside, contamination is almost always inevitable as there are a lot of variables to consider. Contamination due to bacteria is the most common as there are various ways for these crops to get them, via fertilizer made from animal waste, animals, or humans that are infected or contact with insects that are carriers of the bacteria. So in order to avoid contamination from happening, farmers need to take prevention measures. Here are some best practices that should be followed in order to ensure food safety in the produce industry: 

  • Test soil quality: Soil carries a lot of germs that may contaminate the crops that grow in them. Therefore the best way to avoid contamination of the produce is by testing it before planting anything.
  • Test irrigation water quality: Even when the soil is healthy for your crops to grow, the other factor that could easily contaminate fruits and vegetables is contaminated water. Farmers should carefully choose an ideal location not just for the quality of soil, but also of upstream uses of irrigation water.
  • Do not irrigate crops before harvest: As a rule of thumb, growers advise not to irrigate crops that is close to the harvest date. They recommend giving it at least two to seven days before harvest. If the water that was used for irrigation was bacteria-infested, this gap without water provides ample time for any bacteria to likely die before the crop is harvested.
  • Use raw manure carefully: This one is as self-explanatory. Manure is a byproduct of cows but it also good to keep in mind that it is, after all, animal waste. And animal waste can contain harmful microbes. If a grower's strategy is to use manure as fertilizer at the farm, it’s always recommended that harvesting of the crops should be held off until after 120 days.
  • Keep animals away from crops: Animals should be kept away from growing produce at all times. Especially if it's close to harvest time as they can be infected with bacteria or parasites that can easily infect other surfaces or pass the bacteria on through their feces and these bacteria could go into the soil and contaminate the growing plants in the farm.

Who is at risk for food-borne illness? 

There are certain types of people that cannot afford to get infected or sick because of these germs. People who are 65 years and older, pregnant women, babies and children, and those that have comorbidities are at a higher risk of getting sick from contaminants because of their weakened immune systems.

Microbial Hazard 

Water can bind several microorganisms together resulting in pathogenic forms such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, and shigella. Even a small bite of contaminated food may lead to foodborne illness. There are no known statistics or estimates as to how often produce becomes contaminated with water used during the cultivation or packing process but farmers and growers are urged to take proactive steps in minimizing these microbial risks with which they have some form of control over.

In 1990 and 1993, two outbreaks in 4 states involving an estimated 300 deaths were linked to fresh tomatoes. In a separate trial, it was determined that tomato samples came from a single manufacturing facility and process with contamination at its possible source. 

Fresh Produce Safety Tips 

Produce can be contaminated by the soil or water where the produce has been sourced or during storage, shipping, or preparation. 

Remember to always wash raw fruits and vegetables carefully and remember to keep them clean and properly prepared. Use separate dividers for vegetables and for raw food products such as meats, poultry, and seafood. Use separate cutting boards when preparing fresh produce or meat or poultry. After using the kitchen, ensure that the kitchen surface is cleaned and you are washing kitchen accessories thoroughly with clean water and soap and be left to dry off before storing them back in their respective cupboards and drawers. 

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Recent Fruit Reports

Suspected food poisoning. Symptoms: Vomiting
Onset time: 2 minute
Duration: Still going
Suspected source: Not sure
Additional information: Fruit by the foot | Symptoms: Vomiting See Less

My daughter also had a lot of nutella on a fruit bowl from here. Vomiting 10 hours later. Vomited around 5 or 6 hours. | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting See Less

Fruit is not fresh,got food posion on the second day,ruin mu trip,don't come here! | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea See Less

My boyfriend's mom ordered an individual pizza for me, my boyfriend, my bf's mom and dad. We ordered it for dinner and sat down together to eat it. I felt completely fine until today when I ended up having diarrhea 5 times in less than 30 minutes.... See More Mind you, I had not had anything else to eat but the pizza. I fell asleep for about 5 hours and then as soon as I woke up I had diarrhea again, twice this time, and my stomach hurt so bad. I couldn't even stand up straight. Not too long after this second time, my boyfriend also expressed that he is having diarrhea and that his stomach is in a lot of pain as well. Both of us have only consumed this pizza since we both had fruit for breakfast yesterday morning. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Stomach Pain See Less

We all had one thing in common the fruit and the meatloaf all4 children and 2 adults me and my wife we are on are way to the ER. | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting See Less

Saturday9/24. we bought a bag of cherries from a farmers market. it is laced with insecticide or some poison. I smells like a bottle of insecticide. we have had to take food back to this store before. the package says it is from Canada but we doubt... See More it. I have been told by employees that they bag the fruit themselves??? nausea, loose stool and spots in front of eyes and cramps. We intend to freeze the Cherries and find a private, if not Gov't source, to investigate as the Gov't usually doesn't respond. We saved the Cherries | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Nausea, Cramps See Less

Fruit loops, Ate a spoonful of fruit loops and one bite tasted funny but I had swallowed it. Went to hospital after feeling I was going to pass out. Got severe nausea and vomiting. Developed headaches as well. Stomach cramps, chills, couldn’t eat from feeling very ill.... See More I have lost my receipt but have their bag it came in. I have medical records from hospital too treated for severe nausea. Having ongoing headaches as well. | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Cramps, Headache, Chills See Less

I froze the grapes to return along with another cheaper pack. Please note that neither have sell by dates. I got sick after eating black sable grapes from here, I’ve been in bed unable to keep anything down from for 2 days

I bought some sable grapes... See More from there do not put a sell by date on the grapes but have had them in the past, they looked bit dusty but as I always, always wash my fresh fruit thoroughly I decided to buy them. I did eat about 12 grapes but they seemed to taste bit odd so stopped. Few hours later I started feeling unwell, stomach cramps followed later by vomiting headaches and diarrhoea and this has continued for the last two days. I tried eat some toast but threw it up within half hour. I am still getting painful stomach cramps | Symptoms: Nausea, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Cramps, Headache See Less

I ate the 55+ Rise 'N Shine with fruit instead of meat, around 10:15 AM on Friday 09-09-2022. I also had coffee to drink there. About 2.5 hours later, I started having severe stomach pains, and diarrhea. It's been about 4 hours since I ate, the stomach... See More pains come and go, the diarrhea seems to have halted. I am sure it was the breakfast I had here,I did not eat anything else since, or before the meal there. WATCH OUT! | Symptoms: Diarrhea, Something else, Stomach Pain See Less

Last 30 days