Food shopping is the first step in providing safe and healthy foods for your family. Knowing how to select produce, dairy, meats and seafood can reduce your chance of foodborne illness. Make sure items go safely from your grocery cart to your kitchen table with the following food shopping guidelines:
Shop in Order
- Gather non-perishable items first. Then, select refrigerated and frozen items.
- Stop at the deli counter last. Place deli meats near the other cold items in your grocery cart.
Pick Your Produce
- If you go to a farmers market, go early in the morning to avoid produce that has been sitting out all day.
- Choose loose produce rather than packaged so you have more control over what you select.
- Don’t purchase produce with mold, bruises or cuts.
- Purchase only the amount of produce you will use within a week.
- Buy only pasteurized juices.
Check Dairy and Milk Products
- Check the "sell-by" date on all dairy products.
- When buying eggs, choose a carton that is cold.
- Make sure the eggs are clean and aren’t broken or cracked.
- Buy milk and other dairy products toward the end of your shopping trip. This will lessen the time these items are out of refrigeration.
Be Selective with Fish and Seafood
- Buy fish only from reputable sources like grocery stores and seafood markets.
- Check for proper refrigeration of fresh fish. Look to see that flesh is shiny and firm, not separating from the bone, and the odor is fresh and mild, rather than overly "fishy."
- Make sure packaged seafood is well-packed in ice and that packages are tightly sealed and free of dents and tears. Avoid packages containing ice crystals. This is a sign the seafood has previously thawed.
- Buy unwrapped cooked seafood such as shrimp, crab or smoked fish only if it is displayed in a separate case or a physically separated section from raw fish. Bacteria on raw fish can contaminate cooked fish.
Look Over Meats and Poultry
- Make sure packaging is tightly sealed and is very cold to the touch.
- Choose packaged chicken that looks pink, not gray.
- Check the "sell-by" date. If the date has passed, don't buy it.
- Always look for the Safe Food Handling label on packages of bacon and fresh sausage. This label means the meat has undergone safe processing and includes handling and cooking tips.
- Select meats and poultry after shopping for non-perishables.
- Ask to have meat and poultry bagged separately from other groceries.
- Promptly refrigerate or freeze perishable items as soon as you get home.
Reviewed December 2012