Food Safety While Grocery Shopping

While grocery shopping, it is important to follow proper food non-contamination and safety procedures or you can be at risk for food illness.

Keep raw meats separate from ready to eat foods and produce. Remember to wrap your raw meats in a plastic bag before placing them into your cart.

Some people are more at risk of food poisoning than others. Vulnerable groups include pregnant women, young children, the elderly and anyone with an illness. Take special care when buying, storing and preparing food for these people.

Choose your food carefully

Even though food producers and sellers follow food safety laws and proper packing and storage procedures, accidents and mistakes happen which can affect the quality of your food. Choose food carefully when shopping and never buy:

  • Dented, swollen or leaking cans or containers
  • Products with damaged or imperfect packaging
  • Cracked or dirty eggs
  • Chilled or frozen foods that have been left out of the refrigerator
  • Products that are soiled or moldy
  • Ready-to-eat foods left uncovered on counters
  • Hot food, like takeaways, which are not steaming hot
  • Anything where you have doubts about the quality
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Plan your shopping trip

Some hints for shopping safely:

  • Always pick up your frozen or chilled foods towards the end of your shopping trip.
  • Buy hot chickens and other hot food later in your trip and keep it separate from cold food.
  • Prevent meat, chicken or fish juices leaking onto other products.
  • Check that the staff use separate tongs/utensils or methods when handling different food types if you are buying from a deli.
  • Wash your reusable shopping bags regularly, or if they become soiled by food liquids.

Take special care with high-risk foods

Food-poisoning bacteria grow and multiply on some types of food more easily than on others. These high-risk foods include:

  • Raw and cooked meat, including poultry such as chicken and turkey, and foods containing these, such as casseroles, curries and lasagna
  • Dairy products, such as custard and dairy based desserts like custard tarts and cheesecake
  • Eggs and egg products, such as quiche
  • Small goods such as hams and salamis
  • Seafood, such as seafood salad, patties, fish balls, stews containing seafood and fish stock
  • Cooked rice and pasta
  • Prepared salads like cole slaws, pasta salads and rice salads
  • Prepared fruit salads
  • Ready to eat foods, including sandwiches, rolls, and pizza that contain any of the food above.

High-risk foods should be kept out of the temperature danger zone (5 °C to 60 °C). Keep food at 5 °C or below or at 60 °C and above. When you buy high-risk foods, try to minimize the time they spend in the temperature danger zone by packing them properly and taking them home immediately.

Check the dates on the packaging

Always check the date marked on perishable foods, especially chilled or frozen items. A ‘use-by’ date shows the date by which a product should be consumed. It should not be sold after this date. A ‘best before’ date indicates the date until which the food will remain at its best quality. It can be sold after this date.

Transporting food home

If you have purchased hot, chilled or frozen foods, you should get them home as quickly as possible. For trips longer than about 30 minutes, or on very hot days, it’s a good idea to put chilled or frozen foods in a cooler or insulated bag to keep food cold. Once you arrive home, immediately put chilled or frozen foods into your fridge or freezer.

Home Food Storage Procedures

You should have a system for storing your food. It is important to immediately place your cold items in the refrigerator or freezer to avoid them getting warm enough for bacteria to grow.

When you place items in the fridge, you should be able to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator where it will not drip on ready-to-eat items. To further avoid cross-contamination from raw juices, place your raw meat on a plate or similar container that will prevent dripping.