Locally grown, fresh fruit and vegetables benefit the consumer, the environment and the community as a whole. Most fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States are wholesome and free of pathogens (microbes that cause foodborne illness). Many fruits and vegetables have natural barriers, such as skins and rinds that protect the internal edible parts from contamination. However, contamination of fruits and vegetables can occur any time from planting through food preparation. Most pathogens can be killed by cooking, but they can be difficult to remove by washing when foods are eaten raw.
Prevention of microbial contamination is the most effective way to maximize the safety of fruits and vegetables. The best approach to maintaining the wholesome nature of your culinary garden’s harvest is to be aware of potential risks and to establish and implement commonsense practices that will minimize contamination.