The University of Florida provides information on the Handling of fruits and Vegetables. Properly preparing and storing fruits and vegetables can help prevent foodborne illness and save time and money.
1) When selecting fruits and vegetables at the market, do not pick damaged produce. Additionally, avoid selecting fruits and vegetables that are too soft or have translucent skin. Even though Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 do not cause produce decay, damaged fruits and vegetables are more likely to also contain these human pathogens. Additionally, consumers should avoid fruits and greens that are soiled.
2) Store your produce dry and in a cool place. While storing produce at cooler temperatures does not consistently reduce potential contamination, it may help prevent any pathogens that may already be present from multiplying to levels more likely to be dangerous to humans (15).
3) Never soak vegetables in water. Soaking fresh vegetables in water may increase the chance that any bacteria present on the surface of the vegetable will infiltrate into the inner tissues.
4) Fruits and vegetables that have been minimally processed (i.e. thoroughly washed and brushed, cut, sliced, peeled, lightly cooked, etc) should be stored refrigerated and only for a limited time.
5) Clean your refrigerator. Regularly wipe refrigerator shelves and crispers with a household cleaner.
6) Washing produce is an important way to remove some contamination on the surface of fruits and vegetables. Thoroughly washing produce in warm water with common detergents reduces, but does completely eliminate bacteria on surfaces of tomatoes (12). When washing fruits and vegetables at home, consumers should make sure that detergents are food-grade and approved by the FDA for this purpose and do not contain any harmful chemicals. Fruits and vegetables should be washed under clean, running warm water. Do not wash your vegetables or fruits in bleach solutions as they are not considered safe for consumption.
Wash fruits and vegetables immediately prior to eating them. Washing removes fruits’ natural protective wax coating, and brushing will abrade the skin. Thorough cleaning prior to extended storage will reduce the shelf life of produce and create potential routes for contamination. Additionally, washing is not likely to remove Salmonella or other human bacterial pathogens that may have gotten inside the produce. In terms of produce with rough surfaces -- such as cantaloupes, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower -- washing is only modestly effective in removing pathogens.
7) When slicing tomatoes, cut out the stem scar, the corky area on top of a tomato fruit that was attached to the stem. Studies using artificial contamination show that after tomatoes are picked and soaked in a suspension containing Salmonella, the stem scar contains higher numbers of bacteria (15).
8) When preparing fruits and vegetables at home, avoid cross-contamination of fruits and vegetables from meats, poultry, and seafood, as well as from vegetables (such as potatoes and leeks) and cucurbits (melons, squash) that are normally soiled.
IFAS/EDIS (University of Florida) information on fruits & vegetables:
Pesticides on fruits & vegetables:
There exist official regulatory efforts to keep the levels of pesticides low in fruits and vegetables.
The type of pesticide and the frequency of the application differs among the cultivation of varieties of fruits and vegetables. Washing fruits under running water removes more of the pesticide than dipping fruit in a water to wash. 80-100 degree Fahrenheit water temperature is recommended for washing. Waxed fruits/vegetables may contain pesticides or pathogens below the wax coating.
Information on washing fruits and vegetables:
National Pesticide Information Center:
or call: 1.800.858.7378