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Guidelines For The Safe Purchase Of Food


Use caution and common sense when purchasing food. Specifically, follow these guidelines: 

  • Only buy intact packaging.
    • Avoid food products with damaged packaging.For example, if the plastic foil or paper has been punctured or torn, do not purchase the product. 
    • Avoid canned goods that have dents, cracks or bulging lids.
  • Only buy products labeled "keep refrigerated" if they are stored in a refrigerated case and are cold to the touch.
  • Pay attention to the expiration or "sell by" dates of all food items. Do not purchase any food beyond the printed expiration date on its label.
  • Do not buy food which is unsafely displayed. For example:
    • Cooked meat or seafood displayed next to raw food products.
    • Perishable items displayed in a non-refrigerated situation.
  • Watch for unsanitary conditions. Avoid purchasing food from workers with poor personal hygiene or from stores with unsanitary conditions. Conditions such as these should also be reported to local health authorities.
  • Purchase perishable items last. For example, meat, eggs, and milk last. 
  • Avoid raw or unpasteurized milk or dairy products all together.
  • Juices shouldn't drip.
    • Do not allow any juices from items such as eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry to drip on other food items. 
    • Use plastic bags to enclose individual packages of raw meat, poultry, or seafood to prevent any drippings from contaminating other foods. 
    • Ask that items with juices be packed in a separate bag.
  • Shop for groceries when you can take the food home right away.
    • Do not allow food to sit in a warm car, or office.
    • Do not carry food around with you while running additional errands. 
    • It is important to get refrigerated or frozen foods home as soon as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria due to temperature variations.
    • If travel time will exceed one hour, pack perishable foods in a cooler with ice.
    • Keep groceries cooler in the passenger area of the car (instead of in the trunk) during warm weather.
  • If you have any doubt about the safety or condition of a food item, avoid it.

For Additional Food Safety Information: Contact USDA 24/7 with specific questions through the USDA website: offsite link  or by calling 800.535.4555, An extensive selection of food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day using a touch-tone phone.

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