Food Safety 101 :: The Supermarket Sweep

My favorite television show growing up was a game show called Supermarket Sweep. This should have been my first clue that I would grow up one day to be a foodie! In this game show, contestants would answer trivia questions about food and household brands and then race through the supermarket to see who could not only shop the fastest, but check out with the highest grocery total. Sadly, I never got to be a contestant on the show … but little did I know, my favorite game show would give me training for shopping when my children were toddlers. Trying to squeeze in a shopping trip before your child’s nap time will have you racing against the clock before he/she has a meltdown, list and cart in your hand, running through the grocery store like a madwoman on a game show. 

Nowadays, my children are much older and the days of nap time are long gone, but the concept of Supermarket Sweep has remained. I now have my own version of the game show to practice and teach food safety while grocery shopping. Yes! Before your food items even reach your fridge, there are many chances of exposing them to the perfect conditions for food pathogens to grow and having one of your loved ones become sick from a food-borne illness

I felt like this was an important topic because children and pregnant women are populations more vulnerable to food-borne illness because of their immune systems. Each year more than 40 million cases of food-borne illnesses are reported. There are over 250 food-borne diseases that are known world wide! A food borne illness can last for several hours up to several days. (Source: CDC.2017)

Being a food service and nutrition director has its personal advantages and disadvantages. It’s a catch-22. 

The advantage is the ample knowledge that I have of food safety practices and procedures. On a daily basis, I ensure that over 200 procedures are followed by my staff. I am also an instructor/proctor for ServSafe, a national agency that ensures that food is handled correctly and safely for public consumption. So when it comes to home food safety, I guess you would say I have a trained eye for these things. The disadvantage is [also] the ample knowledge that I have of food safety practices and procedures — so I can be OCD at home about these things. My “helpful” tactics drive my family nuts at times.

They may not want to admit it, but deep down I know one day they will thank me.

So, today I am excited that my OCD tendencies on food safety can help another mother out.

3 Quick “Supermarket Sweep” Food Safety Tips 

Make your list and map out your route before you place your first food item in the cart.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Shop for non-perishable items first. Perishable food items are time- and temperature-controlled. It is important that all perishable foods are refrigerated within two hours. (Now that we’ve entered the summer months and temperatures are regularly reaching above 90 degrees, cut that time by an hour.) Keep your food items out of what is known in the food world as “The Danger Temperature Zone”, which is between 41 and 140 degrees. In these temperatures, the growth of food pathogens can triple. So although I love to chit chat, there have been many times that I have had to excuse myself from catching up with an old friend because I had to get my groceries home.

Colder temperatures slow down the growth of pathogens.

Don’t Hesitate to Separate

Separate the food items in your shopping cart correctly. I cringe every time I see someone place their uncooked meats next to food items that can easily become contaminated from the meat juices. This can cause cross-contamination. I have been known to stop complete strangers to educate them on this, all while praying they don’t call security on me. 

Quick Tip 101: Most grocery store chains now carry meat bags that you can place your uncooked meats in to help reduce the chance of cross-contamination. Research has shown that 80 percent of major grocery store chains offer meat bags, but only 20 percent of the public uses them. If your store does not have these available, then you can easily grab some extra produce bags to place your meat items in. 

The Finish Line: The Checkout Line

Categorize and place your food items on the checkout counter according to how they will be stored at home. This method ensures that cold foods are bagged together and stay cold. Also, similar food items will be bagged together, reducing the chances of cross-contamination. This method also comes in handy when putting away groceries at home, because you do not have to play search and find while storing your perishable items, once again reducing the time temperature-controlled food items are left out.

These habits are easy to implement and will make you a WINNER in ensuring your family stays healthy and safe!

Until next time … Happy Shopping, and don’t forget to Supermarket Sweep!


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