Tips designed to help customers make safe grocery choices:
Over the years, prices at consumers’ local grocery stores have been rising at an ever-infuriating rate. This can lead to people, for good reason, to buy 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 money, or worse, becoming ill.
When it comes to meats, one important thing to lookout for is the color. Meat consumers should not buy and meat that is gray or green. This is a sign of spoilage, indicating (at the least) the meat will not last for very long. According to the 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 consumers are warned to avoid purchasing a product that doesn’t fit one of the aforementioned categories.
Another sign for any meat, which also goes for fish, is the smell. There should not be any rancid or foul smelling odor coming from your product, and if there is, this is another sign of spoilage. The smell can be the work of bacteria decomposing the product.
It is not uncommon for people to fail to see (or even smell) these signs, and end up either getting sick from the meat they consume, or throwing it out without being able to cook it. In short, buying said products does not save money in the log haul.
In fact, according to a study done by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2010, approximately 30% of meat, poultry, and fish purchased by consumers were thrown out without ever being eaten. This amounts to a whopping $48 billion dollars of food wasted in one year. Ironically this is a problem that could be easily prevented if shoppers paid more attention to the products they are purchasing during their weekly trips to their local grocery store, and more carefully planned their meals to account for shelf-life.
Another sign the product is not fit to eat, one that applies particularly to vegetables, is if the produce is wilted or slimy. The “fruit” should be firm and the leaves should be bright and “feel crisp”. Although this is probably considered pretty “self-explanatory”, many consumers still tend to overlook it all in the name of a quick visit to the grocer or a cheaper grocery bill. This is especially true of organic foods that, according to some research, comes with “lower customer expectations” in terms of appearance. Be on the lookout for “rubbery or limp” leaves on the vegetables, as this is a sure sign that the health of the vegetable is heading south.
It is also important that once returning home, vegetables are inspected and washed thoroughly, as many can carry different foodborne bacteria prone to make consumers ill, such as E.coli or Salmonella. Sprouts, for example, are notorious for being identified as the origin of nasty food poisoning outbreaks, particularly E.coli. And strawberries? These have ben found on numerous occasions to contain the Hepatitis A virus.
“Fresh” Frozen Foods
One thing to lookout for when it comes to frozen foods, 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 “frozen “carried” at inconsistent and unsafe temperatures, allowing the food to begin to spoil or become contaminated, and then being refrozen all over again.
This is a major problem, as this means there could be a plethora of bacteria residing in the product. From bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella, to other harmful pathogens, it is a guessing game as to what contaminates that certain product. AND, contrary to common belief, bacteria, viruses and common parasites can usually easily survive freezing.
Although this article is not meant to encourage consumers to stop mindful, frugal purchasing at their food from grocery stores, entirely, nor to encourage them to build an entire self-sufficient greenhouse in their backyards, it is still important to be aware of these signs, and, if necessary, to spend a few extra dollars on groceries in order to prevent these problems from arising.