Produce Safety: Consumers

Consumer Safe Food Handling, Preservation, and Storage

As consumers, we want to be able to prepare safe, healthy, and tasty foods. Many people don’t realize that food safety is within their control. Consumers are responsible for the transportation, storage, preparation, and serving of our food. By following simple guidelines on how to shop smart and handle food safely from the time food is purchased until it is served, potential food safety problems can be avoided.  Following appropriate guidelines and handling foods safely is not only true for foods you plan to serve fresh or cooked, but for foods you plan to preserve.  Before you begin canning, fermenting, freezing, or drying foods at home, make sure you are using the most up-to-date research recommendations and scientifically-tested recipes to process a safe food product.
To help you better understand best food safety handling and preservation practices, explore the links to the resources below:

cutting vegetables

Safe Handling and Storage of Raw Fruits and Vegetables
This publication from Virginia Cooperative Extension presents guidelines for best practices for food safety in handling fresh fruits and vegetables from purchase through consumption. Guidelines include what to look for in purchasing produce, how to store it properly and safely, how to wash produce before preparing it for consumption and how to safely prepare produce for consumption. Find step-by-step details on how to keep fresh fruits and vegetables as a safe part of a healthy diet.

Food Storage Guidelines for Consumers
This publication from Virginia Cooperative Extension covers food storage guidelines for all types of foods likely to be found in the home including fresh fruits and vegetables. Storage guidelines include temperature and humidity recommendations along with length of time the produce should be held in various packaging methods.

Food Safety Information Service, United States Department of Agriculture
This site has a wealth of information, including “AskKaren” online database for frequently asked questions; publications regarding food safety; what to do if you have a problem with food products; a food safety guide during severe storms and hurricanes.

Additionally, you can get help with food safety questions through the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-674-6954.

Partnership for Food Safety Education
This site has food safety information and brochures targeting all ages regarding safe handling of foods; safe handling of fresh produce factsheets.

Be Food Safe
This site has many food safety consumer brochures.

Centers for Disease Control Food Safety
You can find estimates of foodborne illness in the U.S. and how foodborne outbreaks are detected and other food safety information at the first link.  The second link specifically addresses fruit and vegetable safety, while the third link has handouts including an infographic on “Steps to Safe and Healthy Fruits & Vegetables”.

Frequently Asked Questions from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources:
This site includes answers to a variety of questions including how to keep foods safe during a power outage; safety of dented or rusted canned food; and how to understand food product date labels.


Virginia Cooperative Extension Food Preservation Resources
Includes an introduction to resources available through Virginia Cooperative Extension, featuring links to various web sites, and Virginia Cooperative Extension topics and publications.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Food Preservation Publications
Includes canning, freezing, drying, food safety, and food storage guidelines  

National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP by CSREES-USDA)
This site provides current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation and is approved by the United States Department of Agriculture.  Includes information on freezing, curing and smoking, fermenting, jams/jellies of many specific food and produce items; highlights seasonal topics for home food preservation; has a Publications tab with factsheets and technical bulletins from USDA, NCHFP, other government agencies and several universities; and Frequently Asked Questions tab for home food preservation methods.

USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning (through the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation):
This link provides downloadable chapters on canning principles and how to can specific produce and meat products.

Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension
This link provides canning video tutorials (including hot water bath and pressure canning) and additional canning information.

Finding your Altitude (needed for canning processing time)

Frequently Asked Questions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
Has a list of topics, as well as a topics search feature.

Emergency Preparedness
“Be ready for storms” food safety info sheet.  See additional resources linked to this page.

Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies
“Understanding and managing food allergies”.  See additional resources linked to this page.  

FAQ On Farm Food Safety