Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Food safety starts at grocery store


May 25TH

Every year, an estimated 5,000 people in the United States die from food-borne illnesses, and at least 76 million people become ill. Consumer Reports ShopSmart says how you handle food, beginning at the grocery store, can make a difference.

"Many people know the importance of safe food handling at home, especially with meat or poultry," said Mandy Walker, with Consumer Reports. "But how you shop can help minimize your risk of food-borne illnesses, too."

Wait until the end of your trip to pick up cold items, such as eggs, meat and deli foods. Even then, reach into the back of the case to make your selections.

If you buy bagged salad or other greens, be sure to select the latest "use by" date available.

In a recent test, Consumer Reports found higher levels of bacteria in bags of salad that were one to five days from the "use by" date than in packages that were six to eight days away.

Treat raw meat and poultry as if it's contaminated – because it might be – so bag it separately without touching the package.

"In general, it's also a good idea to avoid any packages that are leaking juices, because that's a way bacteria can be spread," Walker said.

Finally, pick up frozen foods last, and again, reach into the back of the freezer case, where items are usually the most frozen.

In hot weather, consider putting your perishables in a cooler bag with an ice pack for an extra measure of food-safety protection.

When you are in the produce department, keep a sharp eye out for bruised fruits and vegetables. Soft spots are breeding grounds for contamination.

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