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In the summer, make grocery shopping the last stop on your to-do list.
Hot enough to fry an egg?
U expert has tips on keeping food fresh during summer heat waves
By Carol Ann Burtness
From eNews, August 2, 2007
If you're running errands on a really hot day this summer--and grocery shopping is on your list--make sure the grocery store is your last stop. The temperature inside your parked car can easily exceed 140 degrees within a few minutes when you are shopping. In this warm environment, bacteria multiply rapidly in food and there is a greater chance a food-borne illness will occur. Follow some simple tips for grocery shopping this summer to reduce your risk of food-borne illnesses:
- Shop for groceries early in the morning or in the late evening when it's cooler.
- Organize your list and shop in the following way: pick up dry foods first, then produce, and then refrigerated and frozen items last.
- Put packages of raw meat, poultry, and seafood in separate plastic bags to prevent cross-contamination, and place them in your cart so juices do not drip on other foods.
- Buy foods labeled "Keep Refrigerated" only if they are stored in a refrigerated case. Look for a thermometer, which should read 41 degrees or lower.
- Buy frozen foods only if they are frozen to the touch.
Staying safe in summer
Between 1995 and 2004, the National Weather Service reported an annual average of 235 fatalities from hot weather. "Heat-related illness kills as many people each year in the United States as floods, tornadoes, lightning, and cold weather combined," says John Shutske, a safety and health specialist with University of Minnesota Extension. Heat-related illness includes heat exhaustion, which can rapidly progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening emergency.
According to the American Red Cross, signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. And signs of heat stroke include hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high, reaching 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more tips, read "Exercising in summer heat."
- Buy cut melons only if they are stored in a refrigerated case or on ice. Bacteria grow rapidly on the warm, moist environment of cut melons stored at room temperature.
- Bag frozen and cold foods into double paper bags to help keep them cold.
- If you live more than 30 minutes from the store, transport your cold foods in a clean, insulated container or cooler. Fill the cooler with ice or ice packs to maintain cold temperatures longer. Carry foods in the air-conditioned part of your vehicle, not in the trunk.
- If you buy hot food from the grocery store deli, get the food home quickly. Or, eat it as soon as possible or within one hour if it's a warm day (90 degrees or warmer).
- Wash your hands before storing your food, especially after made a stop for gas.
- Unpack groceries as soon as you arrive home. If you don't refrigerate perishable food within one to two hours after leaving the store, harmful bacteria will multiply.
Carol Ann Burtness is a food science educator with University of Minnesota Extension.