Summer means tons of fresh produce, plump vegetables and juicy fruit abound. While this is the right time to indulge in as many vegetable salads, smoothies and fruit cups as you like, be alert about the risk of contamination.

Whether it is from the soil still clinging to freshly-picked vegetables, the pesticides sprayed on berries and grapes or the wax applied to fruit to keep it from going moldy, you need to ensure that none of these enter your body.

We give you simple tips to handle fresh vegetables and fruit safely—before you chop, eat or cook them:

1. At The Store
Right from the time you pick them up at the supermarket or farmers’ market, fruit and vegetables should be examined for bruises or other kinds of damage. If the items are already cut in half like a watermelon or a bag of leafy greens, only purchase the ones that have been refrigerated or kept on ice. After purchase, never make the deadly mistake of placing veg and fruits adjacent to raw animal proteins such as poultry, meat or seafood in your shopping cart, or even your car.

2. At Home
Make sure you don’t take too long to pop that produce in the fridge, especially if they’re easily perishable such as soft fruit, salad items or mushrooms. If it’s pre-cut or peeled, don’t even think twice; it goes straight in.

3. In The Kitchen
Cross-contamination is a real thing and very dangerous for you and your family. Keep fruit and veg that you plan to consume raw, as far away as possible from meats, chicken and fish. This means no using the same dishes, platters, cutting boards, knives or even placing them on the counter tops without their wrappings.

4. Before You Start Cooking:

  • Safe prep is the next step, so ensure that you wash your hands for nothing less than 30 seconds with warm water and anti-bacterial soap, before you start handling the produce for cooking.
  • Begin by discarding the bruised or rotten bits of the fruit or vegetables you are planning to cook. Wash it under plain, cool running water, and dislodge any visible dirt with your fingers.
  • Avoid washing your produce with soap, detergent or specific produce washes. Regular tap water is just as effective, and definitely cheaper than these often expensive products.
  • For those of you who wish to use natural alternatives such as salt, baking soda or vinegar, keep in mind that while they are not necessarily harmful, they may affect the flavor of the produce and leave an aftertaste.
  • Definitely wash everything before you start peeling and chopping so that you don’t unwittingly transfer germs from the skin to the insides with the knife.
  • For firm produce like melons, cucumbers, gourds or even apples, feel free to scrub away the dirt with a clean, soft brush used only for this purpose.
  • Finally, dry the produce using a clean cloth or paper towel, and only then begin to peel or chop as required.

Image Source: Shutterstock

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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.