Consumer produce safety resources

U. S. Food and Drug Administration 

The following information is from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website on selecting and serving produce safely.

Proper storage of fresh produce can affect both quality and safety.

  • Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below. Use a refrigerator thermometer to check! If you’re not sure whether an item should be refrigerated to keep its quality, ask your grocer.
  • Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or packaged .

Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood — and from kitchen utensils used for those products.

  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water between preparing raw meat, poultry, and seafood and preparing produce that will not be cooked.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after use

When preparing any fresh produce, begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.

  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. Throw away any produce that looks rotten.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating, including produce grown at home or bought from a grocery store or farmers’ market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not recommended. Produce is porous. Soap and household detergents can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, despite thorough rinsing, and can make you sick. Also, the safety of the residues of commercial produce washes is not known and their effectiveness has not been tested.
  • Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, it is still important to wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce.
  • Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
  • After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface

Many pre-cut, bagged, or packaged produce items are pre-washed and ready-to-eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging, and you can use the produce without further washing.

If you choose to wash produce marked as “pre-washed” or “ready-to-eat,” be sure that it does not come in contact with unclean surfaces or utensils. This will help to avoid cross contamination.

For more information on preventing foodborne illness, see Safe Food Handling: Four Simple Steps.

Fight BAC! - The Partnership for Food Safety Education

Safe produce handling tips to help protect yourself and your family from food poisoning. It is important to be consistent in practicing safe food handling at home. For more information, go to

Virginia Cooperative Extension - Virginia Tech

Food Safety Tips for Your Edible Home Garden

This publication from the University of California provides an overview of home garden and gardening practices that are important to consider to keep your home-grown fruits and vegetables safe to eat and share. These tips are relevant regardless of your location. Start your product safety program with a food safety plan for your home garden by applying these practices which are drawn from research and “hands-on” practical experience. Available in both English and Spanish.  (English)  (Spanish)

Food Safety in Your Home Vegetable Garden
Guidelines for reducing risk in each phase of edible gardening – pre-plant, production, harvest and post-harvest.

Using Chicken Manure Safely in Home Gardens and Landscapes
While chicken manure is a little more tricky to use as compared to other manures, it makes a great soil amendment.  Read more about how to use properly.

Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce in Home Gardens After Flooding
After storm events, garden produce may be exposed to localized flooding in Virginia, so it is important to know and understand the microbial risks. Use these guidelines to ensure best practices recommended after a flooding event.

Home Gardening Food Safety: Washing the Fruits (and Vegetables) of Your Labor Properly
Learn the proper way to clean your fruits and vegetables after harvest so you can enjoy them safely.