Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by food contaminated with harmful germs each year, and some of the causes might surprise you.
Although most people know animal products must be handled carefully to prevent illness, many don’t realize that produce can also be the culprit in outbreaks of foodborne illness. In recent years, the United States has had several large outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated fruits and vegetables—including spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.
Glenda Lewis, an expert on foodborne illness with the Food and Drug Administration, says fresh produce can become contaminated in many ways. During the growing phase, fruits and veggies may be contaminated by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, and poor hygiene among workers. After produce is harvested, it passes through many hands, increasing the contamination risk. Contamination can even occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation, or through inadequate storage.
FDA says to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items—such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices—are either refrigerated or on ice both in the store and at home. In addition, follow these recommendations:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
Lewis says consumers should store perishable produce in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below.
Broccoli, Cabbage, Other Veggies May Protect Against Colon Cancer
- Apples and dark yellow vegetables also tied to drop in malignancies, study says
Eating fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some colorectal cancers, according to a new study.
Austrailian researchers examined the diets of 918 colorectal cancer patients and 1,021 people with no history of the disease and found that consumption of certain vegetables and fruits were associated with a decreased risk of cancer in the proximal and distal colon — that is, the upper and lower portions of the colon.
Consumption of brassica vegetables (also known as cole crops) such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, turnips and cabbage, for example, appeared to reduce the risk of cancer in the upper colon, while both total fruit and vegetable intake (and total vegetable intake alone) reduced the risk of cancer in the lower colon.
They also found that eating more apples and dark, yellow vegetables was linked with a significantly reduced risk of lower colon cancer.
Yet higher levels of fruit juice consumption were associated with an increased risk for rectal cancer.
The study appears in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
“Fruits and vegetables have been examined extensively in nutritional research in relation to CRC (colorectal cancer), however, their protective effect has been subject to debate, possibly because of different effects on different subsites of the large bowel,” lead investigator Professor Lin Fritschi, head of the Epidemiology Group at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, said in a journal news release.
“It may be that some of the confusion about the relationship between diet and cancer risk is due to the fact that previous studies did not take site of the [colorectal cancer] into account. The replication of these findings in large prospective studies may help determine whether a higher intake of vegetables is a means for reducing the risk” of cancer in the lower colon, Fritschi concluded.
MONDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News By Robert Preidt) SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2011