by Dr. Michelle Annette Smith, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Food Safety, Produce Safety Staff, FDA
Pre-cut, bagged, pre-washed produce has increased in popularity over the last few years. The convenience of ready-to-eat bagged produce has allowed consumers with hectic lifestyles to add healthy leafy greens, fruits, and other vegetables to their diet easily. Recent recalls of ready-to-eat bagged produce have raised questions on how to handle it safely at home.
Tips for handling ready-to-eat produce safely
While we recommend that you wash intact produce, such as apples, head lettuce, and whole carrots before preparation and consumption, many pre-cut, bagged, or packaged produce items like mixed salad greens are pre-washed and ready-to-eat. It is unlikely that consumer washing of such products will make the product cleaner compared to a commercial triple wash. It is possible that the additional handling may contaminate a product that was clean. If you’re not sure if your packaged produce is ready-to-eat, look at the label. If the package indicates that the contents have been pre-washed and are ready-to-eat, you can use the product without further washing.
If you choose to wash a product marked “pre-washed” and “ready-to-eat,” be sure to use safe-handling practices to avoid any cross contamination.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling the product.
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, salad spinners, utensils, and countertops with hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and preparation of produce that will not be cooked.
Additional Produce Tips
- Choose only ready-to-eat produce that is refrigerated or surrounded by ice before buying
- Refrigerate all pre-cut, ready-to-eat produce promptly
- Make sure that produce, including ready-to-eat produce, is not bruised or damaged
- Separate ready-to-eat produce from raw meat, poultry, and seafood in your refrigerator
- Never use detergent or bleach to wash produce. These products are not intended for consumption.
- Throw away ready-to-eat produce that has touched raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
- Return any uneaten ready-to-eat produce to the refrigerator or discard
Safe Handling of Raw Produce and Fresh-Squeezed Fruit and Vegetable Juices