Food Safety Begins with Shopping

shoppingChoosing wholesome meat and getting those products home safely will start you on the path to preventing foodborne illness. 

As a general rule, shop for meat products last.  Keep frozen and refrigerated foods together in the cart. Meat products will either be fresh (cold but not frozen) or frozen.

What should you look for when selecting fresh meat?

Fresh meat and poultry are usually mold-free, but cured meats and smoked turkey may not be.

The package should be completely sealed. Don’t buy packages that are open, torn or crushed on the edges.

Look for the “sell by” date on the package. The meat may be on sale several days before the sell by date. If you purchase this meat, freeze it or use it by the sell by date.  Although product dating is not required, most meat and meat products will have a sell by date on its label.

shoppingThe sell by date and packaging condition are better indicators of the freshness of meat than is the color. Fresh meat is red when it is film wrapped. It is dark purple if it is vacuum packaged. The pigment responsible for meat color can turn brown when there is some, but not much, air present.  You might see this at the center of a chub of ground beef  that  is cherry red on the outside. When the outside of fresh meat is brown, it may be safe but it has been stored long enough that the pigment is degrading. This may indicate the meat is old and getting ready to spoil.

Put meat in plastic bags provided in the meat section. Packages should not be leaking. Fresh meat and poultry should be packed apart from others foods in your shopping cart where juices will not drip onto foods that might be eaten raw like lettuce and fresh fruit.

What should you look for when selecting frozen meat?

Only buy frozen meats that are completely frozen. There should not be frozen liquid or ice crystals in the package as this indicates that the product temperature has been above freezing at some time.