While there are claims that the United States has one of the world’s safest food supplies, people still get sick from the foods that they eat.  In fact, foodborne illness is very common and roughly one in six Americans will become sick each year from foodborne-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 Million (1 in 6) people get sick from foodborne illness each year and, of these, an estimated 128,000 (0.26%) are hospitalized and 3,000 (0.006%) die from their illness.

In a 2016 survey of Virginia consumers of fresh fruits and vegetables, we found that the majority (81%) of respondents have heard of food safety issues, but are also confident that the produce they buy is safe to eat (81%). About half of the respondents were not concerned that a food safety issue would happen to them or their family members.  However, like most of the United States, contamination of fresh produce in Virginia by one of several human pathogens is a significant concern with respect to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. We want to help our consumers keep their families safe.

Since 46% of foodborne illness outbreaks are related to fresh produce, it is very important that anyone growing produce understands how to prevent contamination from occurring in the first place.  While much of the website is about commercial produce growers understanding on-farm risks and practices that can help reduce those risks, this part of the website is designed for consumers who are either growing produce themselves in home and community gardens or using purchased produce. Our goal is to provide comprehensive food safety education from garden to fork to assist Virginians in decreasing their risk of contracting a foodborne illness from fresh fruits and vegetables. Explore the following pages to learn more:

  1. Home and School/Community Gardening: produce fresh fruits and vegetables safely in the home, school or community gardening through increased knowledge, planning, and attention to details.
  2. Purchasing Safe Produce: consider the freshness, sources, and labeling of fresh fruits and vegetables to reduce food safety risks at home.
  3. Safe Food Handling, Preservation, and Storage: follow these guidelines for safe handling of fresh produce from time of purchase through preservation and/or storage to reduce food safety risks.
  4. Consumer FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions): find expert advice from the Fresh Produce Food Safety Team and other sources on various frequently asked questions.