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Background

Some of the people I work with like to bring in food to share, which is kind and appreciated. Some of these people bring in food that they have grown themselves, and the work that they put into producing that food is very much appreciated.

At least a couple of these people will just leave a bag full of some kind of fruit or vegetable on a table in a break room with a note saying to help yourself, but with no mention of who left it there.

Problem

Sometimes this food will be spoiled.

I do not bring in any of my own home-grown food for precisely this reason; I would feel awful if someone else accidentally ate a bad piece. I have accidentally eaten some bad pieces from my own garden. As for the stuff at work, I have enjoyed some of this food several times, so I'm not sure if discouraging others is a good or bad idea.

Today I grabbed a plum out of just such a bag left in a break room. It had a soft spot, and I'm paranoid, so I decided to split it open. To my surprise, half of the plum inside had gone bad with an unpleasant odor and discolored appearance, and there were bugs inside the fruit, quite unpleasant looking ones at that. I did not expect all that from the soft spot I felt.

Now I'm torn. I believe that most bugs in fruit in my region (northeast US) are not harmful to eat, rather people just consider them gross. I sure don't want to eat it though. Also, one bad fruit doesn't mean the whole thing is bad; from my own garden I know that one or two could be bad and the rest fine, but I don't want to go opening all the fruit in the break room.

Conundrum

I do not know who left it there. I don't want to cause a panic by going in and declaring to everyone in the room that the fruit should be avoided (both over-dramatic and possibly not true). I would appear to be a troublemaker if I just go in and trash the bag of fruit. Even just leaving a note could leave anyone who reads it before the giver feeling sick mentally if they had already eaten some earlier. So I don't know what to do.

I'm considering just minding my own business and letting others who decide to take some potentially find out for themselves the hard way if they bite into a bad fruit and spit it out.

But then again, if more are bad, especially if others notice bugs, I'm not sure if there could be some backlash if anyone finds out I knew before they ate some. So I feel like there could be problems no matter what I do.

Summary

Does anyone know of any professional ways to handle anonymous public gifts at work which could potentially have issues? Assuming one could call "reacting to bad fruit" professional or not.

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    I feel like there are some thinking steps missing here...Is there a lot of people bringing in home grown food? Can’t you just politely go to the known people and ask, ‘hey did you bring in the plums? One of then was rotten and full of bugs, just wanted to mention it to whoever it was...:)’ and narrow down the list of people until you find who brought them, while also indirectly reminding them (through the question) that they need to check their foods first before giving them away? Or are there literally hundreds of people doing this making this a detectives work? – morbo Sep 3 '19 at 16:58
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    Or you can assume that adults who are able to hold down jobs can assess what food of unknown provenance meets their standards for eating. – Damila Sep 3 '19 at 17:06
  • @morbo I am not sure. I only know of 1 person specifically, and I know that the person leaving the bag in this specific break room is not the person that I know of because it's a different building. So there is 1 that I know of (not the one in question here), and at least 1 other. I don't even know how I would find out who this other person could be, unless I ask everyone in the break room from time to time if they've seen who leaves them there. So basically more like detective work. – Aaron Sep 3 '19 at 17:37
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You can get bad produce from anywhere - farm gate to dedicated seller to supermarket. There is always going to be that risk.

If you are paranoid then either don't eat the food you co-workers leave, or, as you have done - wash/cut/peel it to make sure it meets your standards.

If I was in your shoes, I'd probably just mention to my friends at work - "I had one of those plums in the break room and it had a bad spot. You might want to check 'em, before you eat 'em"

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You can consider talking to the admin who looks after the common area if they could put a small cutting / peeling knife near the fruits, and a small board that says "Help yourself" with the knife etc drawn, so people get the idea of using it when they eat the fruit.

Keeping the cutting knife nearby should be enough nudge for people to cut it and eat after checking, or to ignore it and eat some harmless bugs at their own peril.

You mention that you checked the fruit only because you are paranoid, and that the rotten fruit is a rare occasion rather than being the norm, so I would suggest assuming the positive intent here on behalf of the sharer. Any kind of direct / group communication may lead to finger pointing which the sharer may not be comfortable with (Yes s/he brought the fruits but asking them to check every fruit might seem overwork to them, depending on quantity involved), and this could hurt the culture of sharing that your organization currently has.

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