Over the years, prices at consumer local grocery stores have been rising at an ever-infuriating rate. This can lead to people, for good reason, into buying products at discounted prices, even if said products often look like they have seen better days. Although this is understandable, it can be wasteful, and in some cases, dangerous. Even so, there are signs you can be on the lookout for, in order to avoid wasting your money, or worse, becoming ill. Follow your senses!
One sign that is particular to meats, is the color. The meat you buy should not be gray or green. This is a sign of spoilage, both potentially dangerous and the meat won’t last for very long. According to Tasting Table, “beef should be red or dark pink, pork should be pink, and chicken should be yellowy-white.” Any other color isn’t normal, and you should avoid purchasing a product that doesn’t fit the aforementioned category.
Another sign for meats, which also goes for fish, is the smell. There shouldn’t be any rancid or foul smelling odor coming from your product, and if there is, this is another sign of spoilage.
When you touch the packaging, is it cold? Meat purchased at a store should be cold to the touch, and re-refrigerated as quickly as possible. If it becomes warm to the touch, it has likely been out too long!
It isn’t uncommon that people fail to see these signs, and end up either getting sick from the meat they consume, or see them too late and end up throwing the product out. In fact, according to a study done by the USDA, in 2010, approximately 30 percent of meat, poultry, and fish purchased were thrown out without being consumed. This amounts to a whopping $48 billion of food wasted in one year. This is a problem, and one that could be more easily prevented if shoppers paid more attention to the products they are purchasing during their weekly trips to Kroger or HEB.
You can also use your senses to check and see if your vegetables are up to par. Never buy wilted or slimy produce as this is a sign of decay. Although this is probably considered pretty “self-explanatory”, many consumers still tend to overlook it, all in the name of a faster get-away or cheaper grocery bill. Be on the lookout for “rubbery or limp” leaves on your vegetables, as this is a sure sign the health of your vegetable is heading south. The leaves “should be vibrant and should feel crisp”, says Taster Table. It is also important to further inspect and wash your vegetables thoroughly when you get home or plan on using them, as many can carry different foodborne bacteria prone to make consumers ill, such as E.coli or Salmonella that can cause food poisoning.
Sprouts, for example, are notorious for being identified as the origin of nasty food poisoning outbreaks, particularly E.coli.
Finally, switching to frozen foods, another thing to lookout for is the unwanted presence of ice crystals. Ice crystals on the frozen foods at the grocery store often signal that the product, at some point during transit or during their residence at the grocery store, was improperly stored. This means that the product was most likely stored at inconsistent and unsafe temperatures, allowing the food to begin to spoil or become contaminated, and then being refrozen again. This is huge problem, as this means there could be a number of bacteria residing in your food. From E.coli and Salmonella to other harmful pathogens, this poses a threat to the health of whoever decides to consume the product.
Although this article isn’t meant to encourage you to stop purchasing your food from grocery stores entirely and build a self-sufficient factory in your backyard (most of the signs aforementioned apply to whatever is grown/made at home anyways), it is still important to be aware of what you and your family is consuming, and, if necessary, to spend a few extra dollars on your groceries if it guarantees their health.