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Publication #FCS68746

Underground Vegetables: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers1

Amy Simonne2

Underground vegetables are grown under the soil. They typically are exposed to the microorganisms that are found in the soil. Did you know that fresh produce can cause foodborne illness if not handled properly? This is especially true during the summer months when risk for all foodborne illness increases. Here are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of foodborne illness from underground vegetables.

Where You Shop

Buy underground vegetables that are not bruised or damaged.

If you buy vegetables in fresh-cut form, be sure they are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

At Home

Fresh underground vegetables that need refrigeration (carrots, beets) should be refrigerated promptly. Sweet potatoes or Irish potatoes do not need refrigeration.

All underground vegetables should be refrigerated within two hours of peeling or cutting.

Leftover cut underground vegetables should be discarded after two hours at room temperature.

During Preparation

Wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after:

  • handling fresh produce

  • handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood

  • using the bathroom

  • changing diapers

  • handling pets

Wash underground vegetables with cool running water just before preparing or eating. Don't use soap or detergents.

Scrub underground produce, such as potatoes and carrots, with a clean produce brush. Rinse with cool running water.

Pay particular attention to underground vegetables that are consumed raw. Cut away bruised or damaged areas before preparing or eating.

Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops often. Use hot, soapy water and rinse well. Sanitize them after contact with fresh produce, or raw meat, poultry, or seafood (see below).

Sanitize kitchen sink frequently to prevent a build up of microbes.

Do not cross contaminate! Use clean cutting boards and utensils for fresh produce.

Do not mix unwashed underground vegetables with other clean fruits and vegetables.

If you can, use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Always sanitize the cutting board before using it to prepare ready-to-eat foods.

Do not consume ice that has come in contact with fresh produce or other raw products.

Use a cooler with ice or ice gel packs when you take perishable foods outdoors. This includes cut fresh fruits and vegetables.

To sanitize cutting boards, dishes, and utensils

Table 1. 

Mix one teaspoon chlorine bleach in one quart water.

Pour the mixture onto all surfaces or submerge appropriate items into the above solution and let sit at least one minute.

Rinse surfaces well with hot running water.

Following these step will help reduce your risk of foodborne illness from fresh produce.

For More Information

You can visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at: or call FDA Consumer Inquiries at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (a toll-free number).



This document is FCS68746, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2002. Reviewed July 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, Ph.D., professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.