Experts in food safety, also called food science technicians and food safety managers, are responsible for making sure that the food we eat is safe for consumption. They work with the Food and Drug Administration to monitor how food is sourced, packaged, stored, distributed and made. HuffPost reached out to some of these experts to find out what items they personally would not buy at the local grocery store. Here’s a list of 4 foods that they would stay away from.
- Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk - unpasteurized milk, otherwise known as raw milk, has not undergone the heating process that makes milk safe to drink by killing off pathogens and increasing shelf life. It’s also illegal to sell raw milk in certain states and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has made a state-to-state breakdown HERE to check for details. Professor Kali Kniel is a University of Delaware microbiologist and she says “Although it is possible to purchase raw, unpasteurized milk in some states, I recommend people not consume it.” Bryan Quco Le, food chemist, and industry consultant adds raw milk “is just not worth the risk because there are a lot of pathogenic organisms that are still alive in that milk, especially if it’s coming straight from a processing facility.”
- Raw Sprouts – sprouts can be a source of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella and the experts also recommend passing on buying them at the grocery store. Kali Kniel said that even though some sprout growers do a good job of cleaning and sanitation, seeds sometimes can’t be disinfected adequately. She says “The probability of contamination is not so high, it’s more of a moderate risk, but I personally would avoid them.”
- Pre-cut Produce – Le says that “If you’re going to eat pre-cut produce raw, you are dealing with the same amount of microbial risk as you would with sprouts.” Packaged food has to be more carefully processed than the pre-cut variety. Kniel cites melons as being especially susceptible to contamination and experts agree that whatever produce you buy should be thoroughly washed, stored in the fridge and consumed within a few days of purchase.
- Hot Food Bars – there is a rule for food at the grocery store in food bars – hot food should be kept at 135 degrees F or higher and cold food should be 41 degrees F or lower. Le says “If the heating system is questionable, I would avoid the hot food bar, but if it is kept above the proper temperature then you are OK eating it because it can’t be contaminated.” Kali Kniel looks to see if the sneeze guard is in place and the tongs are clean and she recommends thinking twice before eating food that has been sitting out for a long time at off hours.
Both of the experts also stress making sure packaged foods have not been compromised in their packaging, making sure food doesn’t smell bad, and always checking the sell-by dates on fresh produce packages. Also, check for mold on fruits and berries and be aware of cross-contamination on reusable shopping bags. They should always be thoroughly washed as well for food safety.