By Alma Moussa
Grocery shopping is a basic part of life for moms and dads;
going to the store for nutritious foods to keep the family healthy is a simple fact. But what many parents don’t realize is that
supermarkets are not the cleanest places, and shopping carts in particular can harbor hidden germs and bacteria that can make them, and their children, sick. These germs may be less harmful to healthy people, but those with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to illnesses caused by contaminants found at the store. To keep your family healthy and protected from germs, try these 10 ways to make grocery shopping more sanitary.
Wash those hands! Little ones tend to touch everything in sight at the grocery store and any other place they go. Make it a habit to have them wash their hands as soon as they get home and before they eat. Parents should get into the habit, too, and especially make sure to wash thoroughly before and after handling food.
Clean your shopping cart. Many grocery stores don’t routinely (or ever) clean their shopping carts, but you can bring sanitary wipes to clean them off before shopping. Some stores have wipes located near the carts or at the front door for customer use. You can also purchase a shopping cart cover, which creates a barrier to protect you and your children from the multitude of germs that are often found on the seat and handle.
Wrap your food. When picking out meat, fresh fruits and veggies, make sure to use the plastic bags provided to wrap them up and keep them protected from each other as well as to protect your other food from their bacteria. Never place unwrapped food items directly on the checkout counter or conveyer belt, which can be teeming with bacteria.
Always check expiration dates. Expiration or “sell by” dates let you know when a product is safe, or no longer safe, to consume. If you can’t find an expiration date but a product does not look fresh or has a strange smell, don’t buy it. Food is typically good for seven to 10 days from the time of packaging, but meat is usually fresh for three days.
Check for spills. Be on the lookout for any spilled milk or juice on shelves. If you see food on the floor, this should be a red flag. In the event that you do notice unsanitary conditions at your grocery store or supermarket, ask to speak to the manager so you can inform him or her. Find a new store if it remains unclean on your next shopping trip.
Clean your reusable bags. Many people forget that although their eco-friendly bags are reusable, they still need to be washed! These bags have been found to contain high levels of bacteria and even E. coli. The bags can easily be tossed in the wash between shopping trips to get rid of any bacteria.
Pass on the free samples. Trying out the free food samples in grocery stores is tempting but there are situations where it’s better to just keep walking. If you don’t know how long the food has been sitting out there and there’s no one around to ask, skip the sample. Also, pay attention to how the food is being prepared and how it’s being served. Individual toothpicks and forks are fine but avoid any shared bowls.
Check how food is stored. Any cold foods should be kept in cold refrigerators or freezers and hot foods should be kept hot all day. Look for a package at the bottom of a pile to try and find the hottest one. The same goes for cold packages – the coldest will be at the bottom. If a food item looks like it was prepared in the morning and has been sitting around in a lukewarm package all day, you probably shouldn’t buy it.
Inspect food cases. For deli, fish, dairy and meat items, do an inspection of their cases for cleanliness. Warning signs include loose food, crumbs and dirt, which should not be on shelves or splattered on cases. When shopping for fish, make sure the cooked and uncooked fish are not touching each other, which can lead to contamination.
Look at cans, jars and bottles. Before buying any cans or jars, check that the safety buttons haven’t popped up. If the button is popped up, this can indicate a spoiled product, so check the safety buttons of the other products on the shelf. If one item is spoiled, chances are that other products from the batch are also contaminated.
Alma Moussa is a mom and the inventor of the 6-in-1 convertible Babee Covee