Produce FAQs

  1. Where do people buy produce?

    Consumers get their produce through several outlets: 66% of produce is sold through supermarkets and other retail store outlets; 32% moves through the foodservice industry such as restaurants and institutions (hospitals, schools, prisons, etc.). Only 2% is sold at farm markets.

  2. What is genetic engineering or biotechnology?

    Genetic engineering or genetic modification (sometimes called new biotechnology) overcomes the limitations of traditional breeding because it allows for the transfer of a single genetic trait - rather than thousands as in traditional breeding - in a direct, predictable, and controllable manner. It also allows for the transfer of genes from one species or genus to another, which is another difference from traditional breeding.

  3. What is ethylene gas?

    Ethylene is a naturally occurring ripening gas. As some fruits and vegetables mature, they produce ethylene, which continues the ripening process. Without ethylene, some items, such as bananas, would never ripen.

  4. What can you tell me about lettuce?

    Have you noticed that iceberg lettuce is back? Everyone loves its cool, crunchy crispness. Even though darker greens typically have more nutrition, iceberg is a great carrier for nutrition-packed vegetables like tomatoes, green peppers, and carrots. Look for heads of lettuce that have crisp leaves without brown or mushy spots, or bags of fresh-cut lettuce that feel cold to the touch and look fresh and crisp. Fresh-cut lettuce blends offer convenience with the same nutritional value. A one-cup serving of lettuce supplies fewer than 10 calories. Mix and match different types of lettuce for a delicious combination of flavors, textures and nutrition. You may have noticed a colorful assortment of leaf lettuce called mesclun: it's a mixed salad of radicchio (purple leaf), endive (white spikes), chicory (very curly, tight leaves), and other greens.

  5. What are some basic selection tips for choosing fresh produce?

    Choose fresh-looking fruits and vegetables that are not bruised, shriveled, moldy, or slimy. Don't buy anything that smells bad. Don't buy packaged vegetables that have a lot of liquid in the bag or that look slimy. Some fruits, such as fresh-cut pineapple, will have liquid in the bag, and that's OK. Buy only what you need because most fruits and vegetables are not "stock-up" items. Some, such as apples and potatoes, can be stored at home, but most items should be used within a few days. Handle produce carefully at the store. Keep produce on top in your shopping cart (heavy items on top will bruise fruits and vegetables, and raw meat products might drip juices on them). Set produce gently on the checkout belt so it doesn't bruise. Some items that may seem hardy, such as cauliflower, actually are very delicate and bruise easily.

  6. Should I use detergents to wash my produce?

    You should not use detergent or bleach when washing fruits and vegetables because you might eat detergent or bleach residues left on the fruits and vegetables. Produce items are porous and can absorb the detergent or bleach.

  7. Is organic produce safer or more nutritious?

    All fresh fruits and vegetables are safe for both adults and children - those produce organically and conventionally. Leading health authorities, including the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, U.S. Surgeon General, and American Heart Association, encourage Americans to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day for better health. These experts have taken pesticide residues into account when making these recommendations. Recent USDA data show that 99% of fresh fruits and vegetables consumers buy in the store have either no pesticide residues or residues below established tolerances - whether those are organic or synthetic pesticides residues. The same study showed that some fruits and vegetables have residues of more than one pesticide in or on them. The levels of these residues are so infinitesimal that reputable health authorities have concluded that they are beneath any realistic threshold of harm. Health experts routinely advise consumers to wash their fruits and vegetables under clear drinking water before eating. In fact, many pesticides are water soluble and can be washed off under running water. These efforts also remove dirt and bacteria. Although minuscule amounts of pesticide residues may, in fact, remain, credible scientific evidence indicates they represent no risk. There is no nutritional difference between organically and conventionally produced fruits and vegetables.

  8. How will I know if I am buying fruit or vegetables with a wax coating?

    Produce shippers and supermarkets in the United States are required by federal law to label fresh fruits and vegetables that have been waxed so you will know whether the produce you buy is coated. You will see signs in produce departments that say "Coated with food-grade vegetable-, petroleum-, beeswax-, and/or shellac-based wax or resin, to maintain freshness." None of these coatings is animal-based, and they all come from natural sources, generally from plants, food-grade petroleum products (like petroleum jelly used as a lip moisturizer), or insects (similar to honey from bees).

  9. How should I wash my produce?

    Once you're ready to eat your fresh fruits and vegetables, handle them properly. Germs can adhere to the surface of produce and can be passed to the flesh when the item is cut or handled. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is wash all fruits and vegetables in clean drinking water before eating. This applies to all fruits and vegetables, even if you don't eat the rind or skin (such as melons and oranges). Remember to wash produce just before you use it, not when you put it away. You should not use detergent or bleach when washing fruits and vegetables because you might eat detergent or bleach residues left on the fruits and vegetables. Produce items are porous and can absorb the detergent or bleach.

  10. Are imported fruits and vegetable safe?

    Yes. Fruits and vegetables imported into the United States must meet the same rules that U.S.-grown produce meets.