How to avoid foodborne illness

June 3, 2011 at 11:43 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- Although the current outbreak of E.coli in Europe has not affected the U.S. food supply, federal health officials say food safety should always be a concern.

Donald Kraemer, deputy director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says produce is safe and there is no reason for Americans to alter where they shop, what they buy or what they eat.

However, in general, U.S. consumers should always do all they can to protect themselves -- especially those who are very young, very old or very sick -- by taking steps to prevent the spread of foodborne disease.

Foremost, when preparing any fresh produce -- or any food -- begin with clean hands. Wash hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparation, Kraemer says.

"Wash the produce under warm running water just before preparing or eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce that is purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market," Kraemer says in a statement.

Proper storage of fresh produce can affect both quality and safety. Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees F or below."

If not sure whether an item should be refrigerated to maintain quality, ask a grocer, but all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated to maintain both quality and safety, Kraemer says.

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