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Food Shopping Safety

First Step to Family Food Safety

Keeping the family safe is the priority in any household.  Food shopping is the first step in providing safe and healthy foods for your family.  Most individuals want to get in and out of the grocery store as quickly as possible.  We do not realize in our rush we may handle the food we buy in a way that poses safety risks, such as cross-contamination and spoilage, which can result in illness.  It is important to carefully select, package and transport food from the grocery store to home to keep it safe. Knowing how to select produce, dairy, meats and seafood can reduce your chance of foodborne illness.  Get into the habit of buying and storing food safely by following these simple steps:

Washing hands for 20 seconds. Make sure to wash between your fingers.

Make Cleanliness a Priority
  • Clean your shopping cart. Wipe down the child seat, as well as the cart handle, with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Use hand sanitizer. It’s a must after handling raw and packaged poultry at the meat counter if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Take care of your reusable bags. If you don’t keep them clean, they could be hazardous to your health. Store bags in the cleanest area of the car and launder or wipe them down with hot, soapy water at least once per month.  (Bags used for meat should be cleaned after each use).
  • Check for cleanliness and only buy food from reputable businesses that follow food safety regulations.

    Shop the main aisles first and leave the products requiring refrigeration until last to put into your cart last.

Shop Perimeter Last
  • Organize your cart.
  • Shop the perimeter last. Shop the main aisles first and leave the products requiring refrigeration until last to put into your cart last.  That way they’ll spend the least time possible out of the cold.
  • Stop at the deli counter last. Place deli meats near the other cold items in your grocery cart.
  • Put fresh fruits and veggies on top of other foods in your cart and away from meat and poultry. Do not cross-contaminate.

    Check food cans and packaging before buying

Inspect Food Packages
  • Refrigerated foods should feel cold.
  • Check safety seals. A loose lid on a jar means the vacuum has been lost and the product may be contaminated. Don’t buy a food product whose seal seems tampered with or damaged. Report a defective cap to the store manager.
  • Avoid buying any cans that are deeply dented, bulging, rusting or have a dent on either the top or side seam.
Check Dairy and Milk Products    
  • When buying dairy products, choose cartons and containers that are cold.

    Check eggs before buying for cracked eggs

  • Make sure the eggs are clean and aren’t broken or cracked. Check your eggs. Open the carton make sure eggs are clean and none are cracked. “If one cracks on the way home, just make sure to cook it within 24 hours
  • Buy milk and other dairy products toward the end of your shopping trip. This will lessen the time these items are out of refrigeration.
   Selecting Meats, Poultry, Fish and Seafood
  • Make sure packaging is tightly sealed and is very cold to the touch.
  • Choose packaged chicken that looks pink, not gray.
  • Always look for the Safe Food Handling label on packages of bacon and fresh sausage. This label means the meat has undergone safe processing and includes handling and cooking tips.

    Meat, poultry and seafood section

  • Check for proper refrigeration of fresh fish. Look to see that flesh is shiny and firm, not separating from the bone, and the odor is fresh and mild, rather than overly “fishy”.
  • Make sure packaged seafood is well-packed in ice and that packages are tightly sealed and free of dents and tears. Avoid packages containing ice crystals. This is a sign the seafood has previously thawed.
  • Buy unwrapped cooked seafood such as shrimp, crab or smoked fish only if it is displayed in a separate case or a physically separated section from raw fish. Bacteria on raw fish can contaminate cooked fish.
  • Select meats, poultry, fish and seafood after shopping for non-perishable items.

    Keep meats seperated from produce and other items to prevent cross contamination.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate: Separate Certain Foods   
  • Put raw meat, poultry and seafood in plastic bags before placing them in your cart. Juices from meat and poultry can drip onto other food, spreading bacteria
  • When checking out, place raw meat, poultry and seafood in separate bags from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Organize your cart and keep fresh produce away from meats, poultry and seafood.

    Store cold foods and meats in the refrigerator

At Home             
  • Take groceries home immediately and store them right away. If you must run errands and will be out longer than 30 minutes, bring a cooler with chill packs for perishable foods. The temperature of refrigerated food can go up 8 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit on a typical trip home from the store. Perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours and only one hour if it is over 90°F outside.
  • Keep perishable foods out of the hot trunk in summer and place in the air-conditioned car instead.
Other Resources

UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Publications on Food Shopping:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_buying_food

COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ: Is Coronavirus a Concern at Grocery Stores?  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs348

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