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Make safe food choices at the market

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.

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Statistics show that one in six Americans will get food poisoning from eating tainted foods. Food poisoning can be prompted by ingesting food contaminated with parasites, bacteria, viruses, food toxins, or insecticides.food safety

Food poisoning can range from gastrointestinal issues to long-term or even deadly consequences. Possible symptoms of food poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. In addition, it is necessary to be sure to read the label carefully to make certain you are getting what you want. Know that foods that are organic are not necessarily safer or better.

The following are some tips to consider when buying food at the supermarket (Food Safety, Nutrition Action):


  • When buying ground chicken or turkey read the label. Up to 20% of fat and skin can be part of the ground chicken or turkey. The skin is the most likely part of the chicken to be contaminated. Read the label and make certain it reads “chicken meat” or “turkey meat”. If the label reads just chicken or turkey it could contain added skin.
  • When buying whole chicken or chicken parts, be wary since even those that say “100% natural” can be injected with flavored saltwater solution. Be vigilant for the word “enhanced” on the label. 


  • When buying steaks, be careful for tenderized steak and marinade-injected meat. In order to tenderize the steak, there are tiny blades or needles inserted into that piece of steak that may introduce contaminants from the surface into the center of the steak. What is of most concern is that the label does not always indicate it has been tenderized. If contaminants are introduced, they can survive if steak is cooked rare or medium rare (Food Safety, Nutrition Action).
  • Marinade-injected steaks can pose the same risk in that it may introduce contaminants into the meat. Be vigilant of labels that read “enhanced” or “flavored.”
  • Meat from animals that were fed antibiotics may harbor antibiotic resistant microbes. Look for “No Antibiotics Administered” with a USDA logo on the label.
  • If you have any doubts, ask the butcher.


  • Examine the fish for freshness. Look for any discoloration or lack of moisture. If there are gaps in the fish then it is not fresh. Ask, “What is the freshest fish today?” Some fish don’t get to the supermarket for days.
  • You should always consider buying seafood last prior to making your purchases at the supermarket. Put your seafood into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as you get home.

Milk & Eggs:

  • Avoid unpasteurized milk to protect yourself against E. coli & salmonella bacteria.
  • If possible, buy organic milk to avoid synthetic growth hormones.
  • Never eat raw eggs or cookie batter with raw eggs.

Deli Meats:

  • Of concern regarding deli meats is listeria bacteria. This bug can take residence in the deli slicer or meat case, and it is tenacious. It is extremely challenging to clean out.
  • Ways to defend against getting contaminated deli include:
    1. Make sure the person getting the deli items wears gloves and changes them in between meats and in between cheeses.
    2. Make sure that the meat and the cheese are not sliced with the same slicer.
    3. Make sure that the sliced cheese and sliced meat are placed on a fresh sheet of paper and on that paper transferred to the scale.
    4. Don’t keep fresh-sliced deli meat for more than 3 days.

In summary:

  • Shop with care. This includes the shopping cart that you use to carry all of the items you purchase. Make sure to wipe the handle and seat of the shopping cart; statistics have shown that up to 72% of shopping carts are contaminated with poop from the little kids that have dirty diapers.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Make sure your kitchen area is clean.
  • Use separate chopping boards for vegetables & raw meat.
  • Keep your cold and frozen foods as cold as possible.
  • Never reheat leftovers more than once.

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