One of the questions we are continually asking ourselves when we visit the supermarket or farmer’s market is “how safe is the food I am buying?” Is the produce advertised in the “fresh produce” section actually fresh?

Below are tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to keep in mind when shopping for fruit and vegetables.

Buying

If you go to a farmers market, go early to avoid produce that has been sitting out all day long.

If you are not satisfied with the store’s selection, ask the produce manager if there is more available.

Buy loose produce rather than packaged; you will have more control over what you select.

Don’t purchase produce with mold, bruises or cuts.

Buy only the amount of produce that you will use within a week.

Buy most produce in season when possible.

Storing

Promptly store produce that needs refrigeration.

Fresh, whole produce such as bananas and potatoes don’t need refrigeration.

Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting.

Throw away leftover cut produce that is left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Discard cooked vegetables after 3 to 4 days.

Preparing

Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water immediately before eating.

Wash produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash. For firm produce such as melons and cucumbers, scrub with a clean produce brush.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.

Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Use two separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination, use one for raw meats and the other for fruits and vegetables. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.

Cook raw sprouts (alfalfa, clover, etc.); it significantly reduces the risk of illness.