Fruits and vegetables should be a mainstay of the American diet. We need to eat more of them for better health. However, there is a growing concern about their microbiological safety due to sporadic outbreaks of infection from the pathogen Cyclospora, connected to contaminated strawberries and raspberries.
Each year people get sick from foods that have not been properly handled, refrigerated or cooked. If food isn't carefully handled, micro-organisms, especially bacteria, can grow to levels that make people sick. Viruses or parasites may not grow in the food, but may be transferred to humans while eating.
The fruit and vegetable industry does wash most produce in the packing house. Trucks used to ship produce are washed and kept at appropriate temperatures. Ideally, produce workers at the store also follow federal and state handling guidelines to keep produce at the right temperature and take old products off the shelf.
Consumers also have precautions to follow. Trust your senses at the store or vegetable stand. Look for fresh-looking fruits and vegetables that are not bruised, shriveled, moldy or slimy. Buy only what you need. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are not "stock-up" items. Some, such as apples, potatoes and most citrus fruit, can be stored at home, but other fruits and vegetables should be bought to be used within a few days.