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Most of us want to get in and out of the grocery store as quickly as possible. (It can feel like SUCH a chore, right?) But if you're rushing, you're likely ignoring important safety precautions you should be taking.
When Assistant Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Health Peter DeLucia, stopped by our show, he walked us through five key safety measures that the average person *probably* isn’t taking.
(Guilty! ? )
It's never too late to start, though!
No. 1: WIPE DOWN SHOPPING CART
According to Peter, the first thing you should do when you walk into a supermarket is wipe down your cart.
"You don’t know how often these carts get cleaned," Peter says.
The good news is that most grocery stores will have a box of wipes at the entrance, so use them! And if they don’t, don’t feel silly bringing your own.
Pro tip: Be sure the wipes contain bleach!
"The bleach is going to kill the viruses and all the stubborn things that are on there," Peter stresses.
(Rest assured we’re stocking up as we speak!)
No. 2: GRAB MILK + DAIRY FROM BACK AND BOTTOM
Do you know what the "cold line" in the refrigerated section of the grocery store is?
"It's a stock-to line," Peter explains. "You don’t want to over-stock the refrigerator. The manufacturers have it that way because [they] want to make sure the food stays cold, so it doesn’t spoil quickly or develop bacteria."
(Watch the video above to see an example of a "cold line"!)
Word to the wise: Stores will usually put the items with the soonest sell-by date front and center, so don't just grab the first one you see. Do some digging!
But don't ignore the expiration date either! Shoppers shift products around all the time, the food safety expert points out.
No. 3: ASSESS YOUR EGGS
Nobody wants to go home with cracked eggs, so do your due diligence before you check out.
"[And] if one cracks [during your trip home], don't use that cracked egg," Peter recommends. "Throw that cracked egg out. [And] never return a cracked egg to the carton."
Essentially, a cracked egg is more prone to bacteria, like salmonella.
No. 4: DOUBLE BAG RAW MEAT
The plastic wrapping on pre-packaged raw meat can easily get punctured, letting its juices to run on your other food (welp), so ALWAYS double bag it.
(Pro tip: Just grab extra baggies from the produce section!)
Then, once it's wrapped, place the raw meat near the cold or frozen food in your cart.
No. 5: CHECK CANNED GOODS FIRST
A warped or punctured can of food may seem harmless, but it could be a food safety red flag!
"If you can lay your finger [in the dent]," Peter explains, "it's too big of a dent."
If a can is dented at the seams or swollen, Peter explains, it could be a sign of bacteria, including botulism.
"If you see any cans like that," he advises, "you should report it to the supermarket."
"Let them take that can [and] send it back to the manufacturer. It may be a recall. You may be saving a life."
No. 6: *NEVER* PUT PRODUCE OR UNPACKAGED GOODS ON CONVEYOR BELT
Okay, you've gotten to the homestretch and you can't wait to bolt out of the store after checking out -- but hold up! Don't just throw everything in your cart onto the conveyor belt!
In fact, NEVER put produce or anything that isn’t packaged directly on there.
Much like with your cart, you never know what contaminants and germs could have gotten on there from other shoppers.
"This is probably as dirty, if not dirtier, than the [shopping] cart," Peter says.
No. 7: WASH REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS
Peter suggests washing your reusable grocery bags at least once every two weeks -- or as soon as you notice it's contaminated!
If you have a plastic one, wipe it down with a soapy dish towel. If it's canvas or fabric, you can just throw it in the washing machine.
Oh, and one more thing (though it may seem obvious) -- always, always, ALWAYS wash your hands!