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15 Ways to Make Your Food Safer

Food Safety Strategies From the Market to the Table
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Pillai is a professor of food safety and environmental microbiology at Texas A&M University.

Locally grown food "is pretty much on par with what you would find in a supermarket," in terms of food safety, Demma agrees. "Of course, there [are] other reasons to buy and eat locally," she says.

At farmers markets, you may get the chance to meet and talk with the people who produced your food.

Farmers markets have become more common, with 4,385 U.S. farmers markets in 2006, up from 1,755 farmers markets in 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Eating food shipped from overseas? The melamine-tainted animal feed ingredients came from China. But that doesn't mean that all imported food is suspect.

"The assumption that the imported products are unsafe is absolutely not true," Pillai says. "In fact, there are as many outbreaks associated with foods grown in the United States. So blaming it on imported products, I think, is a cop-out."

2. Map your supermarket route. Don't cruise the store aisles aimlessly. Gather nonperishable items first, fresh or frozen goods last. That strategy minimizes the time that perishable goods sit in your shopping cart instead of in a freezer or refrigerator.

3. Be choosy. Select fresh produce that isn't bruised or damaged. Check that eggs aren't cracked. Look for a clean meat or fish counter and a clean salad bar. Don't buy bulging or dented cans, cracked jars, or jars with loose or bulging lids. If fresh-cut produce (such as half a watermelon or bagged salad mixes) is on your shopping list, choose those that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

4. Pack it up. At the grocery store, bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry, and seafood products.

Bring an ice chest to keep frozen or perishable items if it will take more than an hour to get those items home.

No ice chest? If it's hot outside, put the groceries in the air-conditioned passenger area of your car instead of putting them in the trunk, which may not have air-conditioning.

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