Fruit and Vegetable Safety

I bet your doctor has talked to you at some point in your life about how important it is for your health to eat fruits and vegetables; they can help prevent stroke and heart disease, help you lose weight and even help to protect against certain types of cancer.  But one thing they probably didn’t mention is how important it is to pick and prepare fruits and vegetables properly to prevent food poisoning that can be caused by germs on your fresh produce.

This process all starts at the grocery store or market:

  • It is very important to choose produce that hasn’t been bruised or damaged. This creates an area where potentially harmful germs can grow.
  • Once you have your produce, keep it separated from raw meats in your cart, bags and refrigerator.
  • Make sure to keep pre-cut fruits and vegetables cold or refrigerated. They are less likely to grow harmful germs when kept cold.
  • Don’t be fooled! Read packages carefully as pre-packaged does not always mean pre-washed. There is still a risk of contamination.

Once you’re home, it’s important to:

  • Wash everything that will come into contact with your produce while you’re cooking; including your hands, cooking surfaces, utensils, and the produce itself. It is best to wash your fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Make sure to remove any bruised or damaged areas of the produce.
  • Store all cut or peeled fruits and vegetables properly. They should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation if they are not going to be cooked.

Certain people have a greater chance of getting food poisoning and it is especially important to be careful when preparing food for them. Those people are the very young, adults older than 65 years old, pregnant women, or anyone with a weakened immune system.

Although most cases of food poisoning are mild, only lasting a few days, there are some more severe forms.  If you experience vomiting or diarrhea for more than three days, have a high fever greater than 101F, or see blood in your stool, you should talk to your doctor immediately.

With a little bit of new knowledge and care, you can protect yourself, enjoy a healthier diet and live a healthier life. Just remember to buy right, store properly, separate for safety and prepare safely.

For more information about current outbreaks of food poisoning related to food products, visit the CDC website at

To schedule an appointment with a Family Medicine Physician at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-6942

Dr. Andrew Flowers, Family Medicine


All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.