Join the club! Nearly three out of four Americans shop at one of the hundreds of warehouse club stores nationwide—and most of us could use some help when it comes to navigating the "do's and don'ts" of buying in bulk! Before you hit the club, stock up on these helpful home food safety tips.
Safe Can Command
How often do you clean the outside of cans and bottles before opening them? If you're like 66 percent of Americans, not very. Rinsing off soda cans, milk bottles, jars, canned foods—and even can openers—can help eliminate harmful bacteria, which can be ingested. Store canned or jarred goods in cool, dry settings. Also, avoid using cans and jars with dents, cracks or bulging lids, all of which can indicate a foodborne illness threat. For best results, practice the "first come, first served rule" and use the oldest products first.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans stock up on fresh produce when shopping at warehouse club stores. While most people remember to wash ready-to-eat fruits such as apples, grapes and pears before eating them, more than half of us skip washing peel-and-eat fruits such as oranges, bananas and lemons—a home food safety "don't." Fruit peels might carry bacteria that can spread during eating, cutting or peeling, so always be sure to rinse them first.
Clean Hand Code
For 85 percent of club members, no trip to the store is complete without trying one of the many food samples available. But of those who fall for the free finger foods, nearly nine out of 10 are not consistently cleaning their hands first. Because clean hands are the easiest way to prevent the spread of foodborne illness, bring along pocket-sized packets of moist towelettes or carry a bottle of hand sanitizer to wash up before you sample.
Cold Storage Standard
When it comes to deciding when to throw out food, more than three out of five Americans say they wait for food to taste bad, look bad or smell bad... instead of checking the expiration date. The expiration date or "use by" date is the date by which food should be used or frozen to ensure quality and consistency—and it should be followed. When freezing foods is necessary to extend the shelf life of your perishable foods beyond the expiration date, keep your freezer set at or below 0º F. And keep in mind, quality may be affected if foods are frozen for too long.
Buying eggs in bulk can be a great value, but what should you do if you can't eat all 18 before the expiration date? Believe it or not, you can freeze them! In fact, eggs will keep as long as a year in the freezer compared to just a few weeks in the fridge. The freezing process is simple: Beat whole eggs until just blended, pour into freezer-safe containers, seal tightly and freeze. Also be sure to label the container with the number of eggs included and the date. When you're ready for that big breakfast, just thaw overnight in the fridge.
For more information on home food safety at home and on the go, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.
Reviewed June 2013