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Publication #FCS68747

Floral, Leafy, and Stem Vegetables: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers1

Amy Simonne2

A healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables including floral, leafy and stem vegetables. Leafy vegetables include lettuces, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and kale. Stem vegetables include asparagus, kohlrabi, and fennel. Floral vegetables are artichoke, broccoli, and cauliflower. Because many of these vegetables may be packed in the field and because some of these vegetables are often consumed raw, care must be taken to decrease risk of foodborne illness. This publication will focus on floral, leafy, and stem vegetables that are consumed raw. Here are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

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Where You Shop

Buy floral, leafy, and stem vegetables that are not bruised or damaged.

If you buy floral, leafy, and stem vegetables in the form of fresh-cut, be sure that they are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

At Home

Refrigerate floral, leafy, and stem vegetables especially those for raw consumption.

All fresh floral, leafy, and stem vegetables should be refrigerated within two hours of cutting.

Leftover cut or prepared floral, leafy, and stem 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

Certain types of floral, leafy, and stem vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, iceberg head lettuce, spinach, and celery are often packed in the field. Keeping these commodities clean is a problem in field packing operations, especially when fields are muddy.

Consumers need to always wash or rinse floral, leafy, and stem vegetables well with cool tap water just before preparing or eating. Do not use soap or detergents.

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Floral, leafy, and stem vegetables for raw consumption or for garnishing must be washed individually.

Cut away bruised or damaged areas before preparing or eating floral, leafy, and stem vegetables. Microbes can hide in the damaged tissues.

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.

If possible, use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

Do not consume ice that has come into 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 steps 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).

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This document is FCS68747, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2002. Revised October 2006. Reviewed June 2016. Visit the EDIS website at


Amy Simonne, 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.