It’s called a chlorine monitor: If you wash fresh produce, buy one

Maintaining effective sanitizer concentration is of critical importance for preventing pathogen survival and transference during fresh-cut produce wash operation and for ensuring the safety of finished products. However, maintaining an adequate level of sanitizer in wash water can be challenging for processors due to the large organic load in the wash system.

tomato.dump.tankIn this study, we investigated how the survival of human pathogens was affected by the dynamic changes in water quality during chlorine depletion and replenishment in simulated produce washing operations. Lettuce extract was added incrementally into water containing pre-set levels of free chlorine to simulate the chlorine depletion process, and sodium hypochlorite was added incrementally into water containing pre-set levels of lettuce extract to simulate chlorine replenishment. Key water quality parameters were closely monitored and the bactericidal activity of the wash water was evaluated using three-strain cocktails of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria monocytogenes. In both chlorine depletion and replenishment processes, no pathogen survival was observed when wash water free chlorine level was maintained above 3.66 mg/L, irrespective of the initial free chlorine levels (10, 50, 100 and 200 mg/L) or organic loading (chemical oxidation demand levels of 0, 532, 1013 and 1705 mg/L). At this free chlorine concentration, the measured ORP was 843 mV and pH was 5.12 for the chlorine depletion process; the measured ORP was 714 mV and pH was 6.97 for the chlorine replenishment process.

 This study provides quantitative data needed by the fresh-cut produce industry and the regulatory agencies to establish critical operational control parameters to prevent pathogen survival and cross-contamination during fresh produce washing.

 Inactivation dynamics of Salmonella enterica, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in wash water during simulated chlorine depletion and replenishment processes

Food Microbiology, Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 88–96

Bin Zhou, Yaguang Luo, Xiangwu Nou, Shuxia Lyu, Qin Wang

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740002015000556

Nanotech to make produce safer?

Nearly half of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. from 1998 through 2008 have been attributed to contaminated fresh produce. Prevention and control of bacterial contamination on fresh produce is critical to ensure food safety. The current strategy remains industrial washing of the product in water containing chlorine.

(an effective on-farm food safety program helps)

lettuceHowever, due to sanitizer ineffectiveness there is an urgent need to identify alternative antimicrobials, particularly those of natural origin, for the produce industry.

A team of researchers at Wayne State University have been exploring natural, safe and alternative antimicrobials to reduce bacterial contamination. Plant essential oils such as those from thyme, oregano and clove are known to have a strong antimicrobial effect, but currently their use in food protection is limited due to their low solubility in water. The team, led by Yifan Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and food science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, explored ways to formulate oil nanoemulsions to increase the solubility and stability of essential oils, and consequently, enhance their antimicrobial activity.

“Much of the research on the antimicrobial efficacy of essential oils has been conducted using products made by mixing immiscible oils in water or phosphate buffered saline,” said Zhang. “However, because of the hydrophobic nature of essential oils, organic compounds from produce may interfere with reducing the sanitizing effect or duration of the effectiveness of these essential oils. Our team set out to find a new approach to inhibit these bacteria with the use of oregano oil, one of the most effective plant essential oils with antimicrobial effect.”

Zhang, and then-Ph.D. student, Kanika Bhargava, currently assistant professor of human environmental sciences at the University of Central Oklahoma, approached Sandro da Rocha, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science in the College of Engineering at Wayne State, to explore options.

“In our research, we discovered that oregano oil was able to inhibit common foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli O157, Salmonella and Listeria, in artificially contaminated fresh lettuce” said Zhang. “We wanted to explore the possibility of a nanodelivery system for the oil, which is an area of expertise of Dr. da Rocha.”

The team initially considered the use of solid polymeric nanoparticles for the delivery of the oil, but da Rocha suggested the use of nanoemulsions.

“My team felt the use of nanoemulsions would improve the rate of release compared to other nanoformulations, and the ability of the food grade surfactant to wet the surface of the produce,” said da Rocha. “We were able to reduce L. monocytogenes, S. Typhimurium, and E. coli O157 on fresh lettuce. Former Ph.D. student Denise S. Conti, now at the Generics Division of the FDA, helped design the nanocarriers and characterize them.”

The team added that while there is still work to be done, their study suggests promise for the use of essential oil nanoemulsions as a natural alternative to chemicals for safety controls in produce.

“Our future research aims to investigate the antimicrobial effects of essential oil nanoemulsions in various combinations, as well as formulate the best proportions of each ingredient at the lowest possible necessary levels needed for food application, which ultimately will aid in maintaining the taste of the produce.”

More information: The study, “Application of an oregano oil nanoemulsion to the control of foodborne bacteria on fresh lettuce” appears in the May 2015 issue of Food Microbiology. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740002014002676

It’s there: Salmonella in irrigation water

Here’s a video featuring farmer Jeff from 2003, before youtube existed.

And an abstract from a paper just published.

farmer.jeff.water.2003Same questions, not many solutions.

Irrigation water has been implicated as a likely source of produce contamination by Salmonella enterica. Therefore, the distribution of S. enterica was surveyed monthly in irrigation ponds (n=10) located within a prime agricultural region in Southern Georgia and Northern Florida.

All ponds and 28.2% of all samples (n=635) were positive for Salmonella with an overall geometric mean concentration (0.26 MPN/L) that was relatively low compared to prior reports for rivers in this region. Salmonella peaks were seasonal; levels correlated with increased temperature and rainfall (p<0.05). Numbers and occurrence were significantly higher in water (0.32 MPN/L and 37%) compared to sediment (0.22 MPN/L and 17%) but did not vary with depth. Representative isolates (n=185) from different ponds, sample types, and seasons were examined for resistance to 15 different antibiotics; most strains were resistant to streptomycin (98.9%), while 20% were multidrug resistant (MDR) for 2-6 antibiotics.

DiversiLab rep-PCR revealed genetic diversity and showed 43 genotypes among 191 isolates, as defined by >95% similarity. Genotypes did not partition by pond, season, or sample type. Genetic similarity to known serotypes indicated Hadar, Montevideo, and Newport as the most prevalent. All ponds achieved the current safety standards for generic Escherichia coli in agricultural water, and regression modeling showed E. coli levels were a significant predictor for the probability of Salmonella occurrence. However, persistent populations of Salmonella were widely distributed in irrigation ponds, and associated risks for produce contamination and subsequent human exposure are unknown, supporting continued surveillance of this pathogen in agricultural settings.

Distribution and Characterization of Salmonella enterica Isolates from Irrigation Ponds in the Southeastern U.S.A.

Applied and Environmnetal Microbiology

Zhiyao Luo, Ganyu Gu, Amber Ginn, Mihai C. Giurcanu, Paige Adams, George Vellidis, Ariena H. C. van Bruggen, Michelle D. Danyluk, and Anita C. Wright

http://aem.asm.org/content/early/2015/04/20/AEM.04086-14.abstract

12 sick: E. coli leafy greens cone of silence, again

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7, commonly called E.coli, with a possible link to leafy greens. A specific product has not been identified yet, and the investigation is ongoing.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145At this time, the risk to Canadians is low. However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food handling practices to avoid illness. (WTF are Canadians supposed to do with leafy greens?)

There have been 12 cases of E. coli with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in Alberta (9), Saskatchewan (1), Ontario (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). The illness onset dates range from March 13 to March 31, 2015.

Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to leafy greens has emerged as a possible source of illness. Leafy greens can include all varieties of lettuces and other green leaf vegetables such as kale, spinach, arugula, or chard. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s investigation into the food source is ongoing. If products are identified, the Agency will inform the public and ensure that they are promptly removed from the marketplace.

The following tips will help you reduce your risk of infection with E. coli or other food-borne illnesses:

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.

Bullshit. Packaged leafy greens are not to be re-washed.

Australian taxpayers and growers are led up a garden path

(I and others applied for this, but knew it was an inside job. Here is the take from Australian Food News)

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145The Fresh Produce Safety Centre (FPSC), which is an organisation established with government and industry support in 2013, has announced the winning tender bid for the conduct of a literature review of fresh produce safety research.

The announcement has produced some skepticism from commentators about the whole bureaucratic process involving the Fresh Produce Safety Centre’s role in improving the current Australian food safety regime for fresh produce.

The principal industry sector group supporting the establishment of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre has been the Produce Marketers Association Australia New Zealand (PMA A-NZ), which is the representative body of importers and international traders of fruit and vegetables.

The major supermarkets and food safety audit organisations already follow and monitor their own very strict food safety protocols at all points in the supply chain. Commentators are therefore asking why it ought be necessary for the FPSC to be ‘reinventing the wheel’.

Incidentally, the winning tender bid is a team consisting of TQA Australia Inc, RMCG, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in New Zealand, in concert with the Food Safety Centre at the University of Tasmania. The project has the support of the NSW Food Authority, Pip Fruit New Zealand, Golden State Foods and Snap Fresh Foods, and Fresh Select.

In 2009-2010, a process had been initiated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to incorporate food safety primary production and processing standards for horticultural produce into the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (Food Standards Code). However, the PMA and some of the major produce importers opposed the inclusion in the Food Standards Code of a set of food safety standards for their industry sector. Ultimately, the Federal Government relented and the FSANZ process for developing a new mandatory food safety standard was aborted.

The reasons given at the time for the abandonment of the proposals included: the fact that the majority of horticulture product grown in Australia is already grown under a food safety scheme, and that a better understanding of those products that were not grown under a food safety scheme was required before further regulation should be considered.

FSANZ proposed a collaboration between the horticulture industry and government – with suggested measures such as “targeted guidance, codes of practice, education materials and training” and better through-chain traceability measures.

The PMA took the initiative to establish the concept of a ‘fresh produce safety centre’ with government and industry backing.

Some commentators are now consider the whole process a ‘waste of time and industry resources, and taxpayer funds’, especially for growers, supermarkets and other operators in the horticultural supply chain within Australia.

Probably cilantro that sickened hundreds with cylospora in 2013; better detection needed

The 2013 multistate outbreaks contributed to the largest annual number of reported US cases of cyclosporiasis since 1997. In this paper we focus on investigations in Texas.

cilantroWe defined an outbreak-associated case as laboratory-confirmed cyclosporiasis in a person with illness onset between 1 June and 31 August 2013, with no history of international travel in the previous 14 days. Epidemiological, environmental, and traceback investigations were conducted.

Of the 631 cases reported in the multistate outbreaks, Texas reported the greatest number of cases, 270 (43%). More than 70 clusters were identified in Texas, four of which were further investigated. One restaurant-associated cluster of 25 case-patients was selected for a case-control study. Consumption of cilantro was most strongly associated with illness on meal date-matched analysis (matched odds ratio 19·8, 95% confidence interval 4·0–∞). All case-patients in the other three clusters investigated also ate cilantro. Traceback investigations converged on three suppliers in Puebla, Mexico.

Cilantro was the vehicle of infection in the four clusters investigated; the temporal association of these clusters with the large overall increase in cyclosporiasis cases in Texas suggests cilantro was the vehicle of infection for many other cases. However, the paucity of epidemiological and traceback information does not allow for a conclusive determination; moreover, molecular epidemiological tools for cyclosporiasis that could provide more definitive linkage between case clusters are needed.

2013 multistate outbreaks of Cyclospora cayetanensis infections associated with fresh produce: focus on the Texas investigations

Epidemiology and Infection [ahead of print]

Abanyie, R. R. Harvey, J. R. Harris, R. E. Weigand, L. Gual, M., Desvignes-Kendrick, K. Irvin, I Williams, R. L. Hall, B. Herwaldt, E. E. Gray, Y. Qvarnstrom, M. E. Wise, V. Cantu, P. T. Cantey, S. Bosch, A. J. Da Silva, A. Fields, H. Bishop, A. Wellman, J. Beal, N. Wilson, A. E. Fiore, R. Tauxe, S. Lance, L. Slutsker and M. Parise

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9644741&fileId=S0950268815000370

Listeriosis and Produce: What’s the Connection? (via The Abstract)

I’m collaborating with Matt Shipman, public information officer at NC State University and curator of The Abstract, on a set of food safety-related posts from other NCSU folks as we roll toward WHO’s World Health Day on April 7– which is focused this year on food safety. Here’s a post on Listeria’s history with produce by Danisha Garner, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

In the United States and other industrialized nations, consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is considered a key component of a healthy diet.

There are many benefits to eating fresh produce such as receiving adequate vitamins and minerals, reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and preventing some types of cancer. Even healthy foods, however, can be vehicles for foodborne pathogens. Indeed, fresh produce is now considered a major contributor to human foodborne disease, and an increasing number of produce-associated foodborne disease outbreaks have occurred in recent years.

An especially worrisome trend is the increase in outbreaks of listeriosis, involving the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

Danisha Garner. Photo courtesy of Danisha Garner.

What Is Listeriosis?

Although it is relatively uncommon, human listeriosis remains a major public health concern due to high hospitalization and death rates. In fact, it has the highest hospitalization rate of all foodborne pathogens in the U.S. and is the third largest contributor to deaths from foodborne illness. Symptoms of infection can be severe and include septicemiameningitis, stillbirths and abortions. At high risk are the elderly, pregnant women and their fetuses, and patients with cancer and other immunocompromising conditions.

L. monocytogenes can be found in decaying plant material, soil and water, and has been detected on many types of fresh produce. Its reservoirs in nature remain poorly characterized but likely include soil and vegetation. Major contributors to the ability of L. monocytogenes to contaminate foods include its capacity to persistently colonize the environment and equipment of both food processing plants and produce packing sheds, and to grow even at refrigeration temperatures. Hence, foods typically implicated in human listeriosis are those that are processed, cold-stored and ready-to-eat – i.e. consumed without further treatment.

History of Listeriosis Outbreaks

The first outbreak of human listeriosis to be epidemiologically investigated (and to confirm foodborne transmission of the pathogen) involved produce (coleslaw) and took place in the Maritime Provinces of Canada in 1981. However, most subsequent outbreaks involved dairy products (especially soft cheeses) and ready-to-eat meats. Fresh produce was generally considered at low risk for listeriosis.

This situation changed dramatically in 2011, when one of the largest listeriosis outbreaks on record was traced to contaminated whole cantaloupe and resulted in a total of 147 cases of illness and 33 deaths across 28 states. This was also the first time that whole cantaloupe was found to serve as food vehicle for listeriosis. Contamination of the cantaloupes occurred in the packing facility, likely due to inadequate cleaning and sanitation of equipment. The pathogen was not recovered from the field where the melons were grown or from fruit prior to packing.

Even though additional melon-associated outbreaks of listeriosis have not been noted since the 2011 outbreak, several other produce-associated outbreaks have been documented in the U.S. since 2010. Implicated produce included diced celery (2010), sprouts (2014) and commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples (2014). In all investigated cases, the source of contamination was the packing/processing environment or equipment. These outbreaks highlight the importance of having good sanitation practices in the packing/processing facility to prevent or reduce contamination with Listeria and other pathogens.

Research and Prevention

At NC State, several efforts are being focused on characterizing Listeria-produce associations with the ultimate goal of identifying new tools and strategies to reduce the risk of contamination.

In the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science, researchers in the lab of Sophia Kathariou are collaborating with Lisa Gorski and William G. Miller at USDA-ARS to investigate genes of L. monocytogenes that mediate the pathogen’s adherence and growth on both fresh produce and on surfaces likely to be encountered in packing sheds and processing plants.

In collaboration with Christian Melander (in NC State’s Department of Chemistry) the Kathariou lab is also investigating the potential of novel compounds to prevent or disperse biofilms formed by L. monocytogenes on environmental surfaces and equipment. Such research will be critically needed for development of novel tools and strategies to ensure the safety of fresh produce and reduce the risk for human listeriosis.

More information about Listeria monocytogenes and listeriosis outbreaks can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/

Safety don’t have much to do with it: Food safety audits are just what retailers wanted

I’m not Dr. Doug.

doug.coach.happy.feb.15Kids call me coach, others call me asshole, all fine by me.

Dr. Bob and Dr. Dan exist, and probably many others in the misguided belief they are enhancing the public understanding of science, when it’s just demeaning and arrogant.

Dr. Bob says during grower food safety events, “we often talk about why having a food safety program is important and how it is critical to have a program to protect your own business, protect your customers and, ultimately, public health. We talk about emerging science, the importance of foundational food safety programs such as sanitation practices and worker hygiene and how to identify and manage potential cross-contamination hazards on the farm and in the packinghouse.

“After going through this information and basically laying out the why, how, and what of food safety, often some brave soul in the audience will raise their hand and ask, So what score do I need to get in order to pass the audit? And that’s when the frustration sets in. How did passing an audit become a substitute for actually building a risk-based food safety program?”

Oh, Oh, Dr. Bob, I can answer that.

Because back in the late 1990s, as fresh fruit and vegetable outbreaks took on national prominence, retailers decided, we want third-party audits, rather than food safety programs promoted by grower groups.

I chaired a national committee in Canada about 2002 to look at the issue, came up with a solution that would be advantageous to growers and consumers, and was then overruled behind the scenes so the grower groups could keep their Canadian Food Inspection Agency funding (and the bureaucracy).

I walked away.

Thirteen years later and Dr. Bob is wondering how this happened?

Reported foodborne outbreaks due to fresh produce: US vs EU

Consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with a healthy lifestyle. Various international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, encourage the daily intake of at least 400 g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) for the prevention of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

lettuce.skull.noroA large portion of this produce is consumed raw, and the number of foodborne outbreaks associated with these products has increased correspondingly. In this context, unpasteurized fruit juices and raw sprouts are also considered high-risk foods. The 2011 Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak from sprouted seeds in Germany gives a clear indication of the emerging relevance of the consumption of these products within food safety issues.

Globalization and growing international trade can also increase the risk, especially if produce comes from countries with lower safety standards. Nevertheless, nutrition educators and healthcare professionals believe that the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweigh the risk of contracting a foodborne illness by consuming fresh produce.

The number of reported outbreaks (defined as the occurrence of two or more cases of similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food) reported both in the United States and European Union represents only a fraction of the actual number of outbreaks that occur.

Large outbreaks, outbreaks associated with food service and institutions, and outbreaks that have a longer duration or cause serious disease are more likely to be investigated and reported. Conversely, the data may not reflect what occurs in

sporadic cases. Moreover, there are differences in the sensitivity of the national or state systems in identifying and investigating foodborne outbreaks.

melon.berriesA wide spectrum of pathogens and food vehicles has been documented in produce-associated outbreaks. The occurrence of food-related infections due to fresh produce calls for better control interventions and the need for improved prevention strategies worldwide, since food can be contaminated at any point in the food chain, and interventions must be applied where appropriate at every step. Hence, the future success of global efforts to prevent produce-related outbreaks depends on the understanding of the key contributing factors and the maintenance of best practices to reduce and eliminate contamination.

Reported foodborne outbreaks due to fresh produce in the United States and European Union: trends and causes

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. January 2015, 12(1): 32-38

Callejón Raquel M., Rodríguez-Naranjo M. Isabel, Ubeda Cristina, Hornedo-Ortega Ruth, Garcia-Parrilla M. Carmen, and Troncoso Ana M.

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2014.1821#utm_source=ETOC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fpd

Abstract

The consumption of fruit and vegetables continues to rise in the United States and European Union due to healthy lifestyle recommendations. Meanwhile, the rate of foodborne illness caused by the consumption of these products remains high in both regions, representing a significant public health and financial issue. This study addresses the occurrence of reported foodborne outbreaks associated with fresh fruits and vegetables consumption in the United States and European Union during the period 2004–2012, where data are available. Special attention is paid to those pathogens responsible for these outbreaks, the mechanisms of contamination, and the fresh produce vehicles involved. Norovirus is shown to be responsible for most of the produce-related outbreaks, followed by Salmonella. Norovirus is mainly linked with the consumption of salad in the United States and of berries in the European Union, as demonstrated by the Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA). Salmonella was the leading cause of multistate produce outbreaks in the United States and was the pathogen involved in the majority of sprouts-associated outbreaks. As is reflected in the MCA, the pattern of fresh produce outbreaks differed in the United States and European Union by the type of microorganism and the food vehicle involved.

produce.vehicle.us.jan.15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

produce.vehicle.eu.jan.15

Scared by the apple recall? These 5 fruits and veggies are even bigger risks

I’m still somewhat bemused that anyone has no trouble contacting me – this time while goofing around in Hawaii – yet university admin types were baffled so much they fired me for bad attendance.

Excellence in education.

lettuce.skull.noroAmy Rushlow of Yahoo! Health reports that a bacterial outbreak in apples has killed seven people and hospitalized 31, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently confirmed that strains of listeria bacteria were discovered at the Bidart Bros. apple-packing plant in California. A majority of the cases have been linked to prepackaged caramel apples. Last week, Bidart Bros. voluntarily recalled all Granny Smith and Gala apples following the results of the tests.

Apples are the second most popular fruit in America, according the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. But apple contamination is actually rare because they have a hard surface, which prevents bacteria from entering the fruit, says Doug Powell, PhD, a former professor of food safety in the U.S. and Canada who publishes barfblog.com.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are probably the biggest source of foodborne illness today in North America, and that’s because they’re fresh — we don’t cook them — so anything that comes into contact has the potential to contaminate,” Powell tells Yahoo Health.

Powell is especially careful with the following five fruits and vegetables, which have been linked to a significant number of foodborne illness outbreaks over the past years. (And no, apples didn’t make the list.)

1. Sprouts

This is the one food that Powell simply refuses to eat. “There are outbreaks all the time around the world.” You might recall the 2011 outbreak in Germany, which killed more than 50 people and sickened more than 4,000. In late 2014, more than 100 Americans became ill after eating sprouts tainted with E. coli.

Sprouts are particularly prone to bacteria because they germinate in a high-temperature, high-moisture environment — the same environment where germs thrive. “They’ve shown in many of these cases, it’s the seed that’s contaminated on the inside, so then when you get it germinated, you only need one cell and it’s going to grow,” he adds.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women, children, older adults, and people with weak immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts. Cooking sprouts destroys harmful bacteria.

cantaloupe.salmonella2. Cantaloupe

Unlike honeydew melons or watermelon, cantaloupes have porous rinds that allow bacteria to enter the fruit. In addition, the fields where cantaloupes are grown often flood, Powell explains, “So they’re sitting in water, and that water may have come downstream from a livestock operation.”

3. Leafy greens

Bacteria becomes trapped on the inner leaves as the head is forming, Powell explains. Plus, leafy greens are especially difficult to wash effectively. Over the past several years in the U.S., bags of romaine lettuce, prepackaged salad mix, spinach, and spring mix have all been linked to E. coli outbreaks.

4. Tomatoes

There are several ways for germs to enter the fruit of the tomato, including via groundwater or through the water tomatoes are plunged into to give them a little shine, Powell says. “The dunk tank water has to be within five degrees of the interior of the tomato or else a vacuum is formed and water rushes in, so whatever is in dunk tank water is now inside of the tomato.” An easy fix is for tomato companies to monitor the dunk tank water, but unfortunately there isn’t a simple way for consumers to know if their grower does this.

5. Garnishes, such as green onions, cilantro, and parsley

Green onions and other herbs and vegetables used as garnishes are at high risk for outbreaks because we don’t cook them, Powell explains. He recommends leaving them off the plate if they’re simply for decoration.

Don’t let all of this scare you away from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, Powell stresses. While there is no one measure that will keep you completely safe, a few small steps can add up. For one, Powell himself shops for produce at the largest store he can find. “They have the resources to demand that their supply has to go through some basic food safety standards that they’re going to apply internally,” he says. He also recommends giving fresh produce a rinse, which removes surface debris and some (but not all) bacteria.

And while Powell doesn’t suggest always cooking fruits and vegetables to kill bacteria, since there are nutritional benefits to eating them raw, it’s a step you can take if you’re especially concerned. The FDA website offers additional everyday food safety tips.