With symptoms ranging from vomiting and cramps to fever and dehydration (with some 5,000 people dying each year), food-borne illness is a big issue. Prevention starts at the grocery store so practise these five strategies to keep you and your family safe.
Foodborne illnesses (caused when food and beverages are contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites) send thousands of people to the hospital every year. Practising these steps when shopping will help ensure you and your household stay safe.
Shop at a clean, reputable grocery store
It’s hard to be sure how food is being handled behind the scenes, but make an assessment of what you can see. Is the facility overall clean and tidy? If there are flies all over the produce and dirt on the shelves, you might want to switch stores.
Plan your grocery trip so that perishable items can be refrigerated within two hours
Bacteria can develop if you leave items that need to be refrigerated out in the open, so when heading to the grocery store, plan to return home soon after (two hours maximum) to put these items in the fridge. The risk is greatest when temperatures are between 40 and 140 degrees F); if it’s hot weather, be sure to get these items refrigerated even more quickly.
Maintain food sections in your grocery cart
Raw meat and seafood should be kept away from other foods in your cart. As an extra precaution, place raw meats in their own plastic bags to ensure no juices are spilled onto your other groceries — and keep them separate when you bag them at checkout, too.
Pick up frozen foods and meats last
Don’t pick up your perishable items such as fish, chicken, eggs and frozen goods until you’re just about ready to head to the cash register. Also, when picking up frozen foods, check the packaging and make sure nothing is torn or open. When getting eggs, open up the carton and inspect each egg to ensure it is clean and uncracked.
Pick proper cans and jars
Inspect jars and cans to make sure they have not been tampered with. Check jar lids to ensure the freshness seal is intact. Leave anything that’s cracked, dented or bulging (or give it to the store staff to ensure no one else buys the item).