Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Introducing children to them in schools will improve their present and future health. Fresh produce must be handled safely to reduce the risks of foodborne illness. There are a number of steps that foodservice employees can take
to minimize the chances for fruits and vegetables they handle to become contaminated. Best practices for handling all types of produce are described in this fact sheet, along with practices specific to leafy greens, tomatoes, melons, and sprouts. Contamination of produce with harmful microorganisms can occur at all stages of production, processing, transportation, storage, preparation, and service. To prevent foodborne illness, fresh produce needs to be handled with care at each step from farm to table.
PURCHASING AND RECEIVING
Develop training programs to teach the importance of food safety and proper handling of produce to all food handlers.
Practice good food safety and food handling techniques to prevent cross-contamination.
TRAINING AND GENERAL FOOD SAFETY PRACTICES
Maintain produce at the temperature recommended for the variety and particular stage of ripeness.
Store produce at least 6 inches off the floor, including in walk-in refrigerators.
Store produce in a covered container and above other items that might cause contamination.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the product such as “keep refrigerated” or “best if used by.”
Establish a policy for produce that is cut in-house to specify how long the refrigerated cut product may be
used. Mark the product with “prepared on” or “use by” date.
Wash produce just before preparation, not before storage.
Do not store produce in direct contact with ice or water while on display on serving lines and salad bars.
Mark the time when cut produce is displayed without refrigeration. Display cut produce for a maximum of 4
hours if not in a refrigeration unit or containers surrounded by ice. Discard any uneaten produce at the end
of 4 hours.
Recommendations For Handling Fresh Produce
Inspect produce for obvious signs of soil or damage prior to cutting, slicing, or dicing. When in doubt about damaged produce, either cut away the affected areas or do not use the item. Wash produce before serving or cutting using either:
Continuous running water. Chemical disinfectants, used according to the manufacturer’s label instructions for recommended concentration and contact time. Note: Do not soak produce or store in standing water. Do not rewash packaged produce labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed.” Wash thoroughly with hot soapy water all equipment, utensils, and food contact surfaces that come
into contact with cut produce. Rinse, sanitize, and air-dry before use.
WASHING AND PREPARATION
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling or cutting fresh produce. Rewash hands after breaks, visiting restrooms, sneezing, coughing, handling trash or money,
or anytime hands become soiled or otherwise contaminated.
Use a barrier such as gloves, deli paper, or an appropriate utensil to touch ready-to-eat produce. Note: This does not eliminate the need for frequent proper handwashing.
Always wash hands before putting on disposable gloves.
Change disposable gloves anytime the gloves may have been contaminated or when changing tasks.
Do not wash or reuse disposable gloves.
Change disposable gloves if they are torn or damaged.
Use purchasing specifications that include food safety requirements, such as maintaining produce
at the proper temperature, maintaining clean and pest-free storage areas and delivery vehicles,
and complying with federal and state food safety laws and regulations. Ensure suppliers are getting produce from licensed, reputable sources. Check storage and handling practices of vendors. Establish procedures for inspecting and accepting or rejecting incoming deliveries. Procedures
should include checking the condition of the fresh produce and the transportation vehicles to make sure specifications are met.
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