Produce Safety and Friendly Advice

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

When shopping for vegetables at the farmers market or produce market, look for produce that is free from unusual odors or colors and signs of spoilage. Handle produce gently to reduce bruising. Bacteria can thrive in the bruised areas. When selecting fresh fruits and vegetables, look for a good color and shape; feel for a good texture and smell for a fresh aroma. Aim to buy foods that will be eaten when they are fresh. Select an amount that can be used within a short time.

Avoid side trips after purchasing produce. Foods will decline in quality sitting in your car.

Fresh fruits and vegetables keep best stored in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. Use refrigerator crisper drawer for whole produce. Store fruits in a separate refrigerator crisper drawer from vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas that can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality.

Refrigerate fruits and vegetables in perforated plastic bags to help maintain moisture yet provide airflow. Un-perforated plastic bags can lead to growth of mold or bacteria.

If food-grade, perforated bags are not available, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a food-grade plastic bag (about 20 holes per medium-size bag). Fruits and vegetables should be washed just before they are eaten or prepared to prevent mold and bacterial growth during storage.

Some foods that taste best stored at room temperature include bananas, melons, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

For information on specific produce items and links to great food safety information, Web resources, an e-newsletter, online videos and printed materials promoting NC fruits and vegetables, please take advantage of Extension’s “The Produce Lady” on the Internet at Rockingham County Extension Director Brenda Sutton promotes North Carolina grown fruits and vegetables and other farm products.

Eleanor Summers
Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences