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Published on Jan 21, 2009 by Edgar Snyder

Looking Out for Foodborne Illness at the Grocery Store

foodborne illness bacteria

Ever had food poisoning? Believe me, it's not fun. The number of people who've been affected by the recent peanut butter salmonella outbreak keep getting bigger. Foodborne ailments are responsible for about 325,000 hospitalizations a year, so preventing their spread has become a top priority for health officials and consumers. You can begin protecting yourself from food poisoning at the grocery store with these simple steps.

1. Check for cleanliness. Making sure that a retailer observes proper food handling practices is crucial to ensuring that the food you purchase is safe. You should ask yourself: What is the general atmosphere of this facility? Does it smell and look clean?

2. Keep certain foods away from one another. Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your shopping cart. You should also put these products in separate bags at checkout.

3. Inspect cans and jars. Don't buy food in containers that are bulging or dented. In addition, do not buy food in jars that are cracked or have loose or bulging lids.

4. Don't buy frozen food if it looks as though the package is damaged. If the packaging is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the food has been stored for a long time or has been thawed and then refrozen.

5. Select frozen foods and perishables last. Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs should be the last items placed in your shopping cart.

6. Choose fresh eggs carefully. Before you put a carton of eggs in your cart, open the container and make sure that the eggs are clean and completely intact. Buy only refrigerated eggs and make sure to follow the "Safe Handling Instructions" on the carton.

7. Pay attention to time and temperature. Refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after grocery shopping. Food safety experts say to follow the "two-hour rule" – perishable foods shouldn't be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Change the rule to one hour when temperatures are above 90 degrees F, as they often are in cars that have been sitting in the sun.

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