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Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Food Safety Starts Where?

Go-to safety guidelines for the grocery store.

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Food safety starts in the grocery store.With recent food recalls and caution against food contamination, it makes me wonder, where does food safety start? Many of you know of someone or have experienced yourself the unpleasant, gut-wrenching side effects of food poisoning.  As someone speaking from personal experience, I have learned that practicing food safety is an important precaution against contamination. For you, food safety starts in your local grocery store, the minute you grab a cart!

Here are some of my go-to safety guidelines:

Shop Last

If grocery shopping is on your to-do list, save it for last, or bring a cooler with you to keep perishable items cold. A cooler may even be a necessity in these hot summer months, especially if groceries are going into the trunk of your car.

Wipe the Handle

Grab a disinfecting wipe on the way into the store to wipe down the handles, especially if they’re sampling that day! One study showed that cart handles had the most bacteria out of many surfaces found in a grocery store. Better to be safe than sorry!

Inspect Before You Buy

Avoid buying food with holes and tears in the packaging, and don’t buy dented cans.  Damaged products could imply that the food items are not being handled or stored properly, compromising the quality and safety of the food.

What’s the big difference?

“Sell-By” vs. “Use-By” vs. “Best-By”

  • “Sell-by” indicates the date by which the store should sell the food item; it’s the date by which you should purchase products. 
  • “Use-by” is a date set by the food manufacturer to ensure peak quality of the food. 
  • “Best-by” is not a safety date, but rather the recommended date for best quality and freshness. You would be surprised at how many stores disregard these dates, so pay attention as you put food items in the cart!

Separate Food Items

To avoid cross-contamination in your grocery cart, place raw meats, poultry, and fish products away from fruits and veggies. At the checkout, have the bagger place raw meat items in separate plastic bags to prevent contamination during the ride home. 

These tips provide simple solutions to help decrease the risk of contamination and prevent illness in your home. So, the next time you’re in the grocery store, use this guide to help navigate through the aisles with food safety in mind!  

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Tags: Healthy Eating

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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