In the last couple of months, there have been 2 recalls on fruits and vegetables. The first is for cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado and most recently bags of shredded lettuce. The Food and Drug Administration informed Giant Eagle of the presence of listeria monocytogenes in a routine random sample test of Giant Eagle Farmer's Market 8-ounce package of Shredded Iceberg Lettuce, produced by River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC, of Salinas, Calif., with a use-by date of October 14, 2011.
Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is an important public health problem in the United States. It is linked primarily with meat and animal products, as well as with dairy products such as soft or surface-ripened cheeses such as brie and feta but fruits and vegetables have been implicated as well.
The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, rarely, persons without these risk factors can also be affected. The risk may be reduced by recommendations for safe food preparation, consumption, and storage.
To minimize your risk, follow these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control when selecting and preparing fruits and vegetables.
Carefully select fresh fruits and vegetables. When shopping, look for produce that is not damaged or bruised and make sure that pre-cut produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
Rinse all fruits and vegetables before eating. This recommendation also applies to produce with rinds or skins that are not eaten. Rinse produce just before preparing or eating to avoid premature spoilage.
- Clean all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water, including cutting boards, peelers, counter tops, and knives that will touch fresh produce. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten, under clean running water and avoid using detergents or bleach.
- Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage before washing.
- Produce with firm skin, such as potatoes, may require rubbing with a vegetable brush while rinsing under clean running water to remove all soil.
- Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel and prepare, cook, or eat.
- Packaged produce labeled "ready to eat," "pre-washed," or "triple washed" can be used without further washing.
Refrigerate all cut, peeled, or cooked produce within 2 hours. After a certain time, harmful bacteria may grow on produce and increase the risk of foodborne illness.
Follow this general FDA advice for melon safety:
- Consumers and food preparers should wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew.
- Scrub the surface of melons, such as cantaloupes, with a clean produce brush and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting.
- Promptly consume cut melon or refrigerate promptly. Keep your cut melon refrigerated at, or less than 40 degrees F (32-34 degrees F is best), for no more than 7 days.
- Discard cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours.