Following are some general handling tips for fruits and vegetables, including food safety recommendations from the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
*Purchase fruits and vegetables that look and smell fresh. Recognizing excellent quality and the degrees of
ripening are important. Learn what they are before establishing standards for your own operation.
*The Produce Marketing Association recommends you buy only the amount you’ll use in a few days for
most fruits and vegetables rather than “stocking up.” With the exception of some items such as apples,
citrus fruits, and potatoes, most other items don’t store well for long periods.
Assign a kitchen staff member to the task of receiving produce. Your Coastal Produce driver will note the time and temperature on your invoice. Check in your order from invoice to product. Is the produce fresh and of high quality? Did you get what you ordered? Check sizes and packaging against the specs you have set. Consistency in receiving can avoid mistakes later.
HANDLING AND STORAGE
Handle produce gently to avoid bruising and put away prompty. Make sure your cooler is clean and cold (40f or lower) Remember temperatures inside a cooler are highest by the door and upper shelves, and lowest by the blower or adjoining freezer. Isolate ethylene producers. Ethylene is a colorless, odorless gas that promotes ripening. Keep these items segregated from lettuce and other ethylene-sensitive product (see chart) Certain ethylene producing fruits may be ripened further at room temperature before refrigeration.
These include apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums. Tomatoes (an ethylene producer) and potatoes are two common exceptions to vegetables that should be refrigerated.
Tomatoes taste best if they’re stored at room temperature and potatoes are tastiest if kept in a cool, dark, dry place. When storing all produce, it is important to rotate product-putting older produce in front and new arrivals in back. It may be helpful to mark cases with the date of delivery and post signs to remind employees of the First In/First Out rule.
*Store all CUT fruits and vegetables covered, in containers, in the cooler. Once produce is cut, any
microorganisms that get on the cut surface can start to grow.
*Store fresh cut produce above raw meat poultry and fish and below cooked items. Generally, quality is
best if you use cut produce within a day.
*NOTE: The flesh of some fruits-such as apples, bananas, nectarines and peaches-turns brown when the
fruits are peeled or cut and exposed to air. To prevent this darkening, coat their surface with a citrus
juice such as lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime juice. The Food and Drug Administration recommends
that leftover cut produce should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours.
*Rinse whole produce thoroughly under clean running tap water JUST BEFORE YOU USE IT-not when
you store the item or items. Rub as needed to help remove surface contamination. Before washing,
discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage.
*Wash fruits and vegetables (such as oranges and melons) even if you don’t eat the rind or skin. When you
cut into a fruit or vegetable, any bacteria that is on the outer surface can be transferred to the inner flesh.
*Use clean hands (Wet your hands with warm water, apply soap, and rub your hands together for 20
seconds. Rinse and dry with a clean towel. Use clean utensils and a clean cutting board. Especially
avoid touching raw meat, poultry, and seafood before handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
For further information and updates on safe handling of fruits ad vegetables, check the FIGHT BAC! Website. Fight Bac! Is a public-private partnership of industry, government, and consumer groups formed to promote consumer food safety. Follow the “HOT LINKS” at this website to check the latest consumer
Food safety information from PMA, USDA, FDA, and others.