Food Shopping and Storage

Contamination of food products can occur if care is not taken when shopping and storing food. Below are helpful tips when shopping as well as keeping food items safe once it's home.
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Food Shopping Tips

Whether shopping for canned goods or fresh produce, it's important to examine the product closely before purchasing. Below are some tips to help you make safer selections during your next trip to the market.

General
Shop for nonperishable items first, such as canned and dry goods. Buy refrigerated, frozen foods and hot deli items last - right before checkout.

Produce
Reject any fresh produce that appears damaged or bruised. Fresh cut produce for sale should be refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting. If left at room temperature for more than two hours, discard.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed with cool tap water - do not use soap or detergents, which may leave harmful residues. Cut away any bruised or damaged areas of fruit or vegetables before using.
Wash and sanitize cutting boards and utensils before and after handling fresh produce.

Meat, Poultry and Fish
Look for packages that are cool to the touch and have no wear or punctures. Select meat and other perishable products just before checking out.
Make sure all meats are refrigerated when purchased. Keep fresh meats away from other grocery items to avoid crosscontamination. Put raw meat packages in plastic bags so juices will not drip onto other foods. Pack raw meats in a cooler if it will take more than an hour to get home. Keep the cooler in the passenger area of the car during warm weather. Take meats home and refrigerate or freeze promptly.

Canned and Boxed Goods
Check the condition of canned and vacuum-packed foods. If the packaging is swollen or there are signs of moisture or leakage, do not purchase or use the product. Check boxes to be sure there are no rips, tears, or punctures. If there are signs of damage, moisture or leakage, do not purchase the product.

Storing Food Safely

Since bacteria grow most rapidly between the temperatures of 4° C and 60° C, it's very important to keep foods out of this temperature range. Cold temperatures keep many harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying, so refrigerate unused or leftover foods promptly to avoid potential foodborne illness.

Four Golden Rules to Remember
We recommend that consumers use the following guidelines to ensure food products are stored at the proper temperatures.

  • Make sure to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours of purchase or preparation. If the temperature is above 32° C, reduce the time frame to 1 hour. When marinating, store the foods in the refrigerator.
  • Set the refrigerator temperature at 4° C to discourage the growth of foodborne bacteria. Use a refrigerator or freezer thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator.
  • Never place frozen foods on the counter and attempt to defrost them at room temperature. To safely thaw food, place it in the refrigerator the night before. For quick thawing, submerge food in cold water in airtight packaging. You can also use a microwave to thaw food if it will be cooked immediately.
  • When packaging leftovers for cold storage, it's important to reduce the internal temperature quickly to discourage bacterial growth. Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator, but make sure to divide large quantities of food into shallow containers for quicker cooling.

Additional Food Storage Tips
If not properly handled, stored, and prepared, food products can harbor many different organisms that can cause foodborne illnesses. Below are some general tips that consumers should keep in mind when preparing and storing food.

  • Canned/Vacuum Packed Foods: Botulism can grow in canned and vacuum packed foods. If cans or packages are swollen, do not open them. If one end of a can pops when the other end is pushed, or if there are signs of moisture or leakage, do not attempt to use the product.
  • Dry Foods: Dry food products include flour, cereal, and sugar. These products should be kept at least six inches off the floor and stored in clean, dry areas. Do not purchase packages that appear to be damaged, i.e. packages with rips, tears, or punctures.
  • Fresh Foods: Meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products, egg products, fruits and vegetables requiring refrigeration should be stored at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Frozen Foods: Frozen food should be stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen foods should be thawed carefully to avoid spoilage or contamination. They should be thawed either in a refrigerator or as part of the cooking process. Frozen food products should not be thawed at room temperature. Freezing does not kill bacteria.