TheBUZZ: Cantaloupes, listeria and food safety
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The recent outbreak of listeria in cantaloupes has raised concerns about food safety.
WHAT WE KNOW
We see a lot of information about food recalls and sometimes, tragically, about foods that make people sick. Recalls will continue as we have better testing and better tracking, and the government and industry are committed to making sure consumers know about these incidents. It’s important to know about these incidents so that you can take the appropriate action.
Lately there’s been a lot of information about illness and deaths from listeria on cantaloupes from one Colorado farm. Because they were shipped to many states, it may appear that this incident involves a lot of cantaloupes nationwide. When news of a food-borne illness outbreak is released, it’s important to pay close attention to the reports.
It’s rare that fruits and vegetable make people sick, though when you are bombarded with headlines about even a single incident, it can cause concern. Whenever these tragedies happen, the produce industry learns and improves how it grows and ships the fruits and vegetables we all enjoy.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
According to reports, the cantaloupes that were reported to contain listeria were from a farm in Colorado, and they have been recalled; your grocery store will no longer have them. No other cantaloupes are involved, so if you love cantaloupe (and who doesn’t?), you can be confident that the melons you are buying are not from that farm.
It’s important that we all eat more fruits and vegetables. Just remember, each of us plays a role in food safety, so be sure to handle ALL foods properly at home.
Here are some food safety tips …
- Check your produce before you buy. Choose fruits and vegetables that are not damaged or bruised. And be sure that any fresh-cut item (salad mixes, baby carrots, etc.) are refrigerated at the store. See Proper Storage Information
- Wash your hands before and after handling fresh produce.
- Clean utensils and surfaces (don’t forget the fridge shelf!) with hot water and soap.
- Rinse all fruits and vegetables under running water (it doesn’t have to be hot) before using. This goes for items you’re going to peel as well as those where you eat the peel. For hardy items, you can scrub them with a vegetable brush.
- Scientists advise us not to wash fruits and vegetables with detergent or bleach. Fruits and vegetables absorb what you put on them (that’s what makes them great for marinating!), and you don’t want to ingest detergent or bleach. So just rinse under running water.
- Keep fruits and vegetables separate from chemicals and raw meats, poultry, and seafood in your cart, in your grocery bags, and in your fridge. To prevent cross-contamination of meat juices on other foods such as fruits and vegetables, use a different cutting or be sure you wash the cutting board well after using it for meats and before using it for produce. If raw produce does touch the raw meats or their juices, throw it away!
- Refrigerate any cut produce within two hours.
Pay attention to recall reports you hear but get the facts and don’t let them scare you away from the delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables that we all enjoy. Our weekly About the Buzz articles sort out the truths and myths on the latest fruit, vegetable, and nutrition information!