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Publication #FCS68748

Fresh Herbs: Safe Handling Practices for Consumers1

Amy Simonne2

Fresh herbs are highly popular in food preparation because of their flavors. Fresh herbs are often used without cooking to season or garnish ready-to-eat dishes. In recent years some foodborne illnesses have been traced back to fresh herbs such as green onions, cilantro, parsley, and basil. Here are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of foodborne illness from fresh herbs.

Figure 1. 
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Where You Shop

Buy fresh herbs that are not dirty or damaged.

Select fresh herbs that are properly refrigerated.

At Home

Refrigerate fresh herbs promptly. Some of the previous illnesses have been traced to prepared fresh herbs that were left at room temperature for a long period of time.

Leftover prepared fresh herbs should be discarded after two hours at room temperature.

Figure 2. 
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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

Rinse or wash fresh herbs such as basil, green onion, and parsley with cool running tap water just before preparing or eating. Do not use soap or detergents.

Some commercial vegetable wash solutions for fresh fruits and vegetables may help remove dirt and some bacteria.

The action of rinsing or washing will help reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria on fresh herbs.

Cut away damaged pieces 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 the kitchen sink frequently to prevent a build up of microbes.

Do not cross contaminate!

Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood if possible.

Use clean cutting boards and utensils for fresh produce.

Always sanitize the cutting board before it is used 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 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).



This document is FCS68748, 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.