Produce Safety

Increasingly, foodborne illness outbreaks are being traced to lettuce, tomatoes, cantaloupe and other fresh fruits and vegetables. The reason may simply be that we are eating more fruits and vegetables and, often eat them raw. Outbreaks related to produce can occur anywhere along the food chain from field or garden to processing, transportation, handling and preparation.  Education and implementing best practices are keys to prevention.

Most food borne illness can be caused by biological food safety hazards, including the bacteria, viruses, molds, and parasites found on raw produce that is not carefully washed or prepared. Many of these can make you sick.  These microorganisms are a natural part of the environment and can be a problem whether you choose to use organic or conventional gardening methods. To learn more about growing produce safely, follow the five simple steps listed in this Garden to Table: Five Steps to Food Safe Fruit and Vegetable Home Gardening and check out the additional resources below.

Food safety is everyone’s responsibility from the grower to consumer. This website includes produce safety resources and information for;

  • home gardeners
  • school gardens
  • URI Master Gardener volunteers
  • community gardens
  • farmers markets and managers; and
  • farmers

What can I do at home to reduce the risk of harmful microbial contamination of fresh produce?

  1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  2. If damage or bruising occurs before eating or handling, cut away the damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  3. Rinse produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  4. Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
  5. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  6. Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  7. Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.


For more information, to sign up for a training/workshop or to simply ask a question; please click the resource boxes below.


Garden to Table: Five Steps to Food Safe Fruit and Vegetable Home Gardening

Follow these five simple stamps to reduce the risk of someone suffering from a foodborne illness after eating produce from your home garden.

Home Food Preservation

The growing popularity of vegetable gardening and buying locally grown produce has sparked an increase in home food preservation, such as canning, freezing, and drying. Learn how to properly preserve food safely.

Produce Safety Checklist for Donation and School Gardens

Many schools and volunteers are growing food to donate to local food pantries. Use this self-auditing checklist to minimize food safety risks in the garden.

Donating Produce to RI Food Pantries

Many food pantries in Rhode Island have best practices in place to ensure food safe fruits and vegetables for our communities. Check with your local food pantry before dropping off produce to see if they require anything in addition to this document.

Food Safety Videos via URI CoopExt’s YouTube Channel

Find videos related to produce safety, RI Farm tours, Food Preservation and more!

Food Safety for Farmers Markets and Managers

Guidelines and resources specifically for maintaining the safety of products sold at RI Farmers Markets thereby ensuring economic viability of RI Farmers by decreasing the risk of food borne illness to consumers.

RI Good Agriculture Program/Produce Safety Rule

Training information and resources related to the RI GAP program and the Produce Safety Rule training.

RI DEM/Division of Agriculture Produce Safety Portal

For fruit and vegetable growers and others interested in learning more about produce safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), COVID-19 for farmers and co-management of natural resources and food safety.

URI Gardening and Environmental Hotline

The URI Gardening & Environmental Hotline is a free service that provides high-quality, science-based solutions to problems encountered by residential gardeners


Andy Radin

Sejal Lanterman

Produce Safety Educator, Outreach Coordinator
Think Big We Do

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