Here are some food handling tips for personal chefs to avoid contamination at the grocery store.
Double bag your meat meats.
The bags will help to prevent cross contamination by containing any juices that can leak from the thin plastic wrap. If you don’t see plastic bags near the meats, head back to the produce section and snag a few.
Fresh produce also needs baggies.
You want to protect the produce from any meat or poultry juices. Also, if you are among the many consumers who place delicate produce in the child seat of their shopping cart, consider this: How frequently do you think those seats, which cradle diapers throughout the day, are washed?
When it comes to fresh produce, choose products with less damage, bruising and punctures.
The skin of produce such as apples and cucumbers provides a barrier to contamination, says Michelle Smith, a scientist with the FDA’s food safety office.
“The worst kind of damage would be a wound that would allow pathogens into the interior,” she says. However, she noted, bruised or otherwise damaged goods don’t necessarily contain pathogens. Besides, perfect pears, a particularly delicate item, can be pretty hard to find. In that case, Smith recommends simply cutting away the bruised area.
For products without a tougher outer layer, such as spinach or lettuce, consumers should peel the outermost leaves to remove contamination,
Washing produce can remove surface residues and pathogens present in soil that may still be attached to a fruit or vegetable, she says. While you can’t completely eliminate the chance of contamination, you can “reduce the likelihood” of getting sick, Smith says.
Look at the meat display cases
Determine whether the meat is stacked so high that it is no longer being refrigerated. Check for a load limit line on the meat case that should indicate the correct level for food to be displayed.
This article was originally published in an issue of Personal Chef Magazine, a publication for members of the United States Personal Chef Association.