With the recent recalls of frozen fruit due to contamination concerns, many consumers are wondering whether it’s safe to eat frozen fruit. In general, eating raw fruit — fresh or frozen — poses inherent risks because it hasn’t been cooked or heated, something that kills most foodborne pathogens.
“We don’t have any way to protect ourselves that is proven to be effective,” says Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. “The only step that fresh fruits and vegetables are subjected to is some washing, depending on the origin of the product.”
During the past month, dozens of frozen fruit products have been recalled throughout the U.S. due to two separate contamination events. One was a potential listeria contamination involving pineapples and mangos. The other involved frozen organic strawberries related to an outbreak of hepatitis A that was first announced in March.
Frozen versus fresh fruit
“If the produce is contaminated, which is better: frozen or fresh? Neither one is better,” says Gina Nicholson Kramer, associate director at the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention at The Ohio State University.
There haven’t been any widespread recalls of fresh fruit this year.
Unlike frozen vegetables that come with specific cooking instructions, frozen fruit doesn't have such guidelines. As a result, consumers can assume that frozen fruit can be eaten without cooking, she said.
“Usually, frozen fruit manufacturers are very good at making sure that produce goes through a special wash to eliminate foodborne pathogens that could be on the produce,” Kramer says “But unfortunately, the wash systems to get rid of the pathogens don’t all work 100 percent.”