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Published on Nov 22, 2011 by Edgar Snyder

An Unexpected Reason to Use Your Shopper Loyalty Card

Thanksgiving food safety tips

Savings on food and gas are the usual reasons people sign up for grocery store loyalty cards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these types of cards have an entirely different benefit that you probably never considered – stopping food poisoning outbreaks.

A recent Salmonella outbreak in Eastern states has sickened 42 people so far this year, but a lot more might have fallen ill if it weren't for shopper loyalty cards. When officials started questioning the food poisoning victims, they realized that they all shopped at Wegmans. After getting permission to study the patients' loyalty card data, the officials found that a lot of the people were buying Turkish pine nuts or foods that contained them.

Quickly determining the source of food poisoning outbreaks is the key to containing the number of people who are sickened. However, it can be difficult for people to remember what they ate yesterday, let alone a few weeks ago. Supermarket loyalty cards keep a record of everything that a person buys in that store going back for years. These records aren't always made available to food safety officials, but when they are, they've played an important part in stopping outbreaks.

Another crucial step in preventing food poisoning is using proper food handling and cooking techniques. As you start getting your Thanksgiving meals ready, please keep the following tips in mind:

1. Keep everything clean:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
  • Wash surfaces with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables but don't rinse raw meat and poultry as this makes it more likely for bacteria to spread.

2. Avoid cross-contamination:

  • Keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood separate from foods that won't be cooked.
  • Use one cutting board for foods that will be cooked and another for those that won't.
  • Don't put cooked meat or other ready-to-eat food on an unwashed plate that has held raw eggs, meat, poultry, or seafood.

3. Cook foods to the proper temperatures:

  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat is cooked thoroughly. To check a turkey, insert the thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. It's done when it reaches 165 degrees F. If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing should be 165 degrees F.
  • Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F; pork and ham to 145 degrees F; and beef, veal, and lamb to 145 degrees F.
  • Sauces, soups, and gravies should reach a rolling boil when reheating.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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