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The importance of safe handling of fresh produce

Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of the importance of safe handling of fresh produce to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Fresh fruits and vegetables do not naturally contain microorganisms (i.e., bacteria, parasites or viruses) that can make you sick. However, fresh produce can become contaminated while in the field or through improper handling, storage or transportation during or after harvest.

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends Canadians eat a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. But, as with any food, it is important that fresh produce be handled and stored properly to reduce the chances of becoming sick. It is estimated that approximately 11 million Canadians suffer from foodborne illness every year.

You can reduce the risk of foodborne illness by following these food safety tips:

Separate: Fresh produce can become contaminated when they come into contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices. Make sure to keep your fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat in the grocery cart at the store and also in your refrigerator, cutting boards and counters at home.

Clean: You should wash your fresh fruits and vegetables gently under cool running water. Fruits and vegetables that are usually peeled or cut, like melons, oranges and cucumbers, also need to be washed gently under cool, running water. You should also scrub fruits and vegetables that have a firm surface, such as melons, potatoes and carrots. Do not soak your fresh fruits and vegetables in a sink full of water. The sink can harbour bacteria that can be transferred to the fresh produce. It is not necessary to use anything other than water to wash your produce. Washing with water is as effective as using produce washes.

Chill: Store your fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator at 4ºC (40ºF) or below. All cut fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated and should not be kept out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

For more information:

Fresh produce safety ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/safety-salubrite/index-eng.php )

Melons ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/safety-salubrite/melon-eng.php )

Tomatoes ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/safety-salubrite/tomatoe-tomate-eng.php )

Fresh herbs ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/safety-salubrite/herb-herbe-eng.php )

Leafy greens ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/safety-salubrite/leafy-feuille-eng.php )

Mushrooms ( http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/safety-salubrite/mushroom-champignon-eng.php )

Government of Canada’s Food Safety Portal ( http://www.foodsafety.gc.ca )

Posted: Jul 25, 2010

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