Safe food starts at the grocery store

Grocery shopping can be an unpleasant task but staying alert while shopping will keep your food safe to eat.

Here you go, off to the grocery store again. Grocery shopping can seem like a never-ending task. Not only is it important when grocery shopping to utilize budgeting tips and meal planning skills to ensure healthy, balanced meals for yourself and/or family, but good food safety practices also must begin at the grocery store. Keeping cold foods cold and preventing cross contamination are essential to keeping your food safe. Cross contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, surfaces, utensils or hands. Keeping raw foods separate from ready to eat foods will prevent cross contamination from occurring.

As you maneuver through the aisles at your favorite grocery store, Michigan State University Extension recommends these tips to ensure the safety of the food you take home.

At the grocery store:
  • Choose cold foods like poultry, dairy products, eggs and meats last on your way through the store.
  • Examine the Use-By and Sell-By dates to be sure food is not expired
  • Open the egg carton and look for unbroken, clean eggs
  • Inspect fresh produce and avoid those with bruises or damaged pieces
  • Place poultry, meat and seafood in plastic bags before putting them in the cart
  • Do not choose meat or poultry packages that are torn or leaking
  • Keep raw meat, seafood and poultry separate from other items in the cart
  • Examine packaged foods for no holes, tears or openings. Frozen foods should be solid with no signs of thawing. Avoid packages containing ice crystals. This is a sign the frozen food has previously thawed.
  • Refrigerated foods should feel cold.
  • Avoid buying dented, bulging, rusting or have a dent on either the top or side seam. Deeply dented or bulging cans may be a warning sign of botulism, while cans with a sharp dent may damage the seam and allow bacteria to enter the can.
In the car:
  • Keep raw and ready to eat foods separate in the car for the ride home so there is no chance for cross contamination.
  • After you are done shopping, remember to head right home. It is a good idea to always make the grocery store your last stop before heading home. Perishable foods need to be refrigerated within 2 hours of purchase. If the temperatures outside are 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then foods should be back in refrigeration within 1 hour.
  • Use a cooler to transport perishable foods if you will be driving a distance or if the temperatures could cause bacterial growth.
At home:
  • Take the time to put the groceries away as soon as you arrive home. This will guarantee cold foods are back in refrigeration and keep them safe to eat.
  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator to verify the refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Clean and sanitize your reusable shopping bags so they are ready for your next shopping trip

A grocery-shopping trip using good food safety practices is the first step to enjoying many safe family meals at home. 

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