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Chapter 7 : Consumer Handling of Fresh Produce
Consumers believe that eating fresh produce is healthy, and many say that they are increasing their consumption. Consumers report an increased use of pretrimmed, -washed, and -bagged fresh produce. When allowed to use food stamps for fresh produce at the farmer's market, 56% of consumers report trying items for the first time. In 2005, 11% of consumers said that they stopped buying specific food products because of food safety concerns. The Hartman Group found that consumers select organic products for health and nutrition reasons, followed by taste, belief in food safety, and environmental concerns. When consumers hear about the integrated pest management (IPM) approach, their attitudes toward farming practices and food safety are positive. Outbreaks of foodborne illness have occurred in which fresh produce was identified as the source of the pathogen. After incidences of contamination, as many as 60% of consumers indicated that they were more concerned about bacterial contamination of fresh produce than in the previous year. Consumer food safety guidelines emphasize the need to separate raw meat and poultry from foods to be eaten raw; however, many consumers do not realize that the potential for juices to cross-contaminate can occur in the shopping cart or grocery bag. Less than 30% of consumers polled in a nationwide mailing indicated that they ask for meat, poultry, and fish to be bagged separately from fresh produce. Slightly more than half of consumers report washing the sink before handling fresh produce and about half wash the sink after handling produce.