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Everybody knows that fresh fruit and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet. Those fruits and vegetables won't do your body good if they are covered with enough germs to make you sick. Here is an overview of problems to be on the lookout for.
There is probably no riskier item in your market's produce section than cantaloupe.  For several weeks in 2011, American news headlines blazed with the story of Listeria infections acquired from cantaloupes produced at a single farm in eastern Colorado, most of them distributed by Walmart.

1. Whenever possible, choose produce that is grown without irrigation.

If you live in a part of the world where farmers don't use irrigation, make a point of getting your produce at the farmer's market. In places where fruits and vegetables have to be grown with irrigation, you are less likely to get contaminated produce if you buy directly from a small farmer than if you buy bagged produce at the supermarket.

2. Don't let pieces of produce touch each other during storage.

It's especially important not to place leafy greens with root vegetables or to place anything where it touches a melon. It's OK for bags or containers to touch, just not the produce itself.

3. Either eat fruit and vegetables the same day you buy them, or keep them in refrigerated storage.

For controlling microbial growth, it is best to hold produce at about 45° F/7° C. There are some kinds of produce that need to be held at higher temperatures, such as sweet potatoes and ripe tomatoes. Or you can just use them the same day you buy them.

4. Use acidity to slow or stop bacterial growth.

A tiny amount of lemon juice or vinegar added to rinse water does a great deal to stop the growth of E. coli. If you are storing chopped vegetables, just a little lemon juice will help keep them fresh. Lowering the pH of the liquid around chopped cabbage from 4.5 to 4.3, for instance, is enough to kill 90% of of E. coli bacteria.

5. Use mayonnaise to smother bacterial growth.

While no one can argue that mayonnaise is a health food, it does make certain prepared salads, such as the American versions of coleslaw and potato salad, more resistant to spoilage. Heavy dressings literally suffocate Listeria bacteria.

6. If the power goes out for more than 4 hours, throw out produce you had stored in the refrigerator.

Many kinds of bacteria stop growing as soon as you put produce in the refrigerator. A brief exposure to temperatures around 77º F/25º C, however, activates them so that they continue growing even when the power comes back on. It is not an absolute certainty that eating food that has been warmed after refrigeration will make you sick. Bacteria can't multiple if they were not present on the food in the first place. But in rare instances food-borne bacteria can cause fatal infections, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

7.  Don't bother with commercial produce washes.

Rinsing your fruits and vegetables in a commercial produce wash removes 99.9% of bacteria. Rinsing your fruits and vegetables under clean tap water removes 99.4% of bacteria, and washing them in a clean sink to which you have added about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of either lemon juice or vinegar (you may want to rinse them a third time if you use vinegar) removes 99.96% of bacteria—better than a commercial produce wash. Don't forget to spin dry or air dry your produce before putting in the cooler.

8. Grow your own sprouts.

One way to know for sure and certain that your sprouts have not been grown in contaminated water is to grow them yourself. You'll get fresher sprouts and you'll save up to 90% over the retail price.

9. Don't suppose that expensive produce is necessarily safer than inexpensive produce.

Scientists at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania took samples of salads and sandwiches made in stores in neighborhoods of varying socioeconomic status (SES) for analysis in the lab. They found that that sandwiches and salads sold in stores in high-SES neighborhoods had more fecal coliform (E. coli) than sandwiches and salads sold in stores in low-SES neighborhoods.

It also may help to buy the kinds of food that are particularly important to the majority in your neighborhood. African-Americans often favor leafy greens over other choices in produce. The research team found that leafy greens that had been washed in stores in Black neighborhoods had no fecal contamination, while leafy greens that had been washed in stores in other ethnic neighborhoods showed varying degrees of fecal contamination.

10. And because it's so important, we'll mention it again. Wash your produce top and bottom.

It makes a big difference just to turn a piece of fruit or a leafy green or any other vegetable upside down during the rinsing process. Remembering this will go a long way toward preventing food poisoning of all kinds.