July 8, 2009

Bad news about good-for-you food

Canadian health agencies want consumers to realize microorganisms on fresh produce could make them sick.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Ottawa say fresh fruits and vegetables do not naturally contain illness-causing microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites or viruses. However, fresh produce can become contaminated while in the field or through improper handling, storage or transportation during or after harvest.

A diet rich in good-for-you food such as a variety of fruits and vegetable is vital to health, but it is also important to take steps to prevent food-borne illness through produce, the agencies say.

Steps that can help prevent food-borne illness recommended by the two agencies include:

-- Keeping fresh produce from becoming contaminated by coming in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be kept separate from raw meat in the store's grocery cart at the store and also at home in the refrigerator and on cutting boards and counters.

-- Washing fresh fruits and vegetables gently under cool running water. Do not soak your fresh fruits and vegetables in a sink full of water as the sink can harbor bacteria that can be transferred to the fresh produce.

-- Washing with water is as effective as using produce washes.