It's farmers' market time, and all those fruits and vegetables seem so fresh. But they aren't necessarily clean.
Like supermarket produce, these local and even organic items need a wash before eating, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a professional education and advocacy group.
The group and the food giant ConAgra are reminding everyone that one in six Americans get sick annually from food-borne pathogens. About 3,000 people die every year from food poisoning. Fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with E. Coli, salmonella, listeria and norovirus from soil or water.
"Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy eating plan, and should fill half of your plate, but just like any food product, extra precautions should be taken to reduce the risk of food poisoning," said Sarah Krieger, a registered dietitian and academy spokeswoman, in a statement.
+Avoid produce with mold, bruises or cuts because bacteria like to hide in these spots and can spread quickly.
+Buy loose produce rather than pre-packaged, but if you do buy packaged lettuce or carrots or other items, wash them even if they say "ready to eat."
+Wash the food in cool tap water, dry it in a paper towel or clean cloth and use a knife to cut away damaged or bruised areas.
+Wash produce before peeling or cutting to ensure dirt and bacteria are transferred from the blade to the food.
+Avoid cross-contamination by using different cutting boards for raw meat and your ready-to-eat vegetables. A color coded system of boards can help.
+Discard cooked vegetables after three or four days. Labeling with an eat-by date can help.
For more produce safety tips, go to www.homefoodsafety.org.