your home against foodborne illnesses begins not at home, but at the
supermarket, grocery store, or any other place where you buy food that
you plan to store and serve.
illnesses is a top priority at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
That's because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), foodborne ailments cause about 325,000
hospitalizations and 5,200 deaths nationwide each year.
You as a consumer can play a key role in preventing these illnesses. While shopping for food, you should:
1. Check for cleanliness.
from a retailer who follows proper food handling practices helps assure
that the food is safe. Ask yourself: What is the general impression of
this facility? Does it look and smell clean?
2. Keep certain foods separated.
raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery
shopping cart. Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their
juices from dripping on other foods. It is also best to separate these
foods from other foods at checkout and in your grocery bags.
3. Inspect cans and jars.
Don't buy food in cans that are bulging or dented. Also, don't buy food in jars that are cracked or have loose or bulging lids.
foods sold in cans or jars are processed to be sterile, they can "keep"
for a long time if the can or jar is intact. A bulging can or jar lid
may mean the food was under-processed and is contaminated. A dent in a
can, especially if the dent affects a seam, may cause an opening in the
seam which may allow contamination, as would a crack in a jar. 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
4. Inspect frozen food packaging.
buy frozen food if the package is damaged. Packages should not be open,
torn or crushed on the edges. Also, avoid packages that are above the
frost line in the store's freezer. If the package cover is transparent,
look for signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the food
in the package has either been stored for a long time or thawed and
refrozen. In such cases, choose another package.
5. Select frozen foods and perishables last.
poultry, fish and eggs should be the last items placed in your shopping
cart. Always put these products in separate plastic bags so that
drippings don't contaminate other foods.
6. Choose fresh eggs carefully.
putting eggs in your cart, open the carton and make sure that the eggs
are clean and none is cracked. Buy only refrigerated eggs and follow
the "Safe Handling Instructions" on the carton.
7. Be mindful of time and temperature.
important to refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after
grocery shopping. Food safety experts stress the "2-hour rule"—because
harmful bacteria can multiply in the "danger zone" (between 40° and
140° F), perishable foods should not be left at room temperature longer
than 2 hours. Modify that rule to 1 hour when temperatures are above
90° F, as they often are in cars that have been parked in the sun.
it will take more than an hour to get your groceries home, use an ice
chest to keep frozen and perishable foods cold. Also, when the weather
is warm and you are using your car's air conditioner, keep your
groceries in the passenger compartment, not the trunk.
For More Information
Protect Your Health
Joint FDA/WebMD resource
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN):
Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook
Information for Consumers and Health Educators
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Reporting Problems with Food Products
Report Non-Emergencies About Food to FDA
Date Posted: May 13, 2008