Food safety starts at the store. Are you guilty of any of these common grocery shopping mistakes?:
- Buying dented cans. You may be able to score a deal on a damaged can; however, the low cost is not worth the added risk. 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. Avoid buying any cans that are deeply dented (one that you can lay your finger into), bulging, rusting or have a dent on either the top or side seam.
- Driving around with perishables in the car. Do you know 50 percent of shopping trips involve going to two or more stores? This means you could be driving around for hours, resulting in your food reaching an unsafe temperature. All perishable food needs to be refrigerated within two hours and only one hour if it is over 90°F outside to keep it out of the danger zone.
- Not using separate plastic bags for raw meats. A new study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that shoppers are spreading raw poultry juices to shopping carts, other food items and even their children while at the store. Juices from raw meats can spread easily, so use plastic bags to separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from ready-to-eats foods in the cart, shopping bags and at home. According to the study, while 85 percent of stores supplied meat bags to customers, fewer than 20 percent of the customers used them.
- Not cleaning hands before sampling food. It’s easy to be tempted by free samples at stores and forget to wash your hands. If provided, use the store’s free hand sanitizer or bring your own sanitizer or moist towelettes if you plan on sampling food, especially food you are touching directly with your hands.
- Selecting frozen and perishable foods at the beginning of your shopping trip. Frozen foods and perishables should be selected towards the end of your shopping trip so they stay cold. Harmful bacteria multiply when these foods are left unrefrigerated for over two hours, making it important to limit the time they are out of the refrigerator or freezer.
[Read more: Food Safety at the Store]