A national mail survey focusing on consumer handling of fresh fruits and vegetables was conducted among 2,000 randomly selected households in the United States. The objective was to quantify consumer practices relating to the purchase, transport, storage, and preparation of fresh produce, with emphasis on practices that affect safety. Following an additional mailing procedure, a response rate of 33% was obtained. Six percent of the consumers responded that they seldom or never wash fresh produce, and more than 35% indicated that they do not wash their melons before preparation. Twenty-three percent of the respondents indicated placing their meat, poultry, and fish on a refrigerator shelf above other foods, and 9% do not place their produce at any specific location in the refrigerator. Almost half of the respondents indicated not always washing their hands before handling fresh produce. Ninety-seven percent of respondents reported that they always wash their food preparation surfaces after contact with meat products, yet 5% and 24% dry wipe or wash with water only, respectively. The results from this study suggest that women, lower-income households, people 65 years and older, and non–college graduates practice safer food handling methods than men, higher-income households, people younger than 65 years, and college or postcollege graduates. The survey findings suggest that consumer education materials should emphasize safe handling practices from purchase through consumption. Educational outreach should target specific subpopulations, men, college graduates, higher-income households, and people younger than 65 years because of their higher frequency of unsafe handling and washing practices.

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