Dietitian Dish: Plan your grocery shopping trip to prevent foodborne illness
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By Katherine Klingle
Planning a trip to the grocery store? Now that the hot summer months are upon us, keeping food at a safe temperature just from store to home can be challenging. Here are a few tips to minimize your risk for foodborne illness:
Starting at your grocer's front door, use antibacterial wipes on your cart. Some studies indicated that there may be more bacteria on the handle of a cart than on a public toilet seat. Most grocery stores have a handy, complimentary wipes container next to the carts. A quick cart wipe down takes just a moment. Target the handles and child seat area.
Then, plot out your grocery store route. Shop the canned, boxed and dry goods areas first. Next, hit the fresh meat section, double bagging your selections to minimize any liquid leakage. Place the meats in a lower section of the cart, grouped together. It's worthwhile to mention that checking the expiration or sell-by dates are important in buying the freshest foods. It may seem like a no-brainer, but when we are in a hurry, it's an important part that's often overlooked. The next sections to shop are the dairy, egg and cheese sections. Group these foods together to allow them to stay cool while you continue your shopping in the frozen section. When you select frozen foods, be sure they are frozen solid and not soft or mushy, indicating thawing. Any uncooked, frozen items, like frozen meat patties, should be slipped into a plastic bag or stored by the other uncooked meats.
Topping off your cart with fresh produce on the precooked frozen goods will keep your produce cool and free from crushing. (This is a great place for bread also. How many times have you gotten home to find your loaf of bread as flat as a pancake?)
After checking out, place your bags in a cooler spot in your car instead of the trunk. I keep cold items in the front passenger seat when I shop in the summer, so the air conditioning can help keep them cool on the way home. Don't run errands after grocery shopping. Save your shopping for the last errand so you can get your purchases home in a timely manner.
Put refrigerated and frozen items up first when unpacking groceries. Many people utilize reusable bags. It's a wonderful way to protect our environment by reducing waste. However, remember these need to be washed with warm, soapy water and rinsed, allowing to air dry to minimize bacteria from previous purchases that may be left behind. You may be packing ready-to-eat items next time in the bag you used for raw meat. Using bags designated for raw foods, much like using designated cutting boards for raw foods, may be an additional safety step.
With a few simple steps, you can spend less time concerned with foodborne illness and more time enjoying your summer.
For more information, go to foodsafety.gov or fsis.usda.gov.
Katherine Klingle is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.