Be a Smart Consumer at the Grocery: Safety in the Produce Section

Being a smart consumer isn’t just about saving money and getting a good deal. It’s also about watching out for the welfare and safety of your family. For example, you wouldn’t buy a car at 50% off if there was a 50% likelihood the brakes wouldn’t work on the interstate.

In the same way, you wouldn’t buy produce for 50% off at the grocery store if you thought there was a 50% chance it might make your family sick.

As food safety laws continue to impose regulation on the farming and food manufacturing industries, our food has become safer.

… or has it?

Many consumer watchdogs and agencies have found that there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the quality of grocery store produce. From insecticides and herbicides to unclean water and a surplus of nitrogen fertilizer, there’s a lot to watch out for. Here are some tips you need to know as a consumer before you go shopping in the produce section again…

#1 Know Your Sticker Codes

You can tell a lot about a piece of fruit or a vegetable just by looking at its PLU (price look-up) sticker code. For example, organic produce will have a 5-digit number, beginning with the number 9.

Ordinary produce has only a 4-digit number, and begins with 4.

Genetically-modified produce, which many consumers try to avoid, has a 5-digit PLU, beginning with 8.

While these are good codes to follow, be aware that they’re not guarantees. No one forces this organization system on food-producers. So, many GMO-producing companies, aware that consumers are becoming more educated and alert, have avoided PLU codes that begin with 8.

#2 Ask About New Shipments

Many small grocers will get the bulk of their shipments in on one day. Ask your grocer what day of the week new produce tends to arrive, and always go shop on that day. You’ll enjoy better selection and your produce is more likely to last longer.

#3 Know About Storage Methods

Don’t take it for granted that the grocery is storing produce properly. Fresh-cut fruit, for example, should be packed in ice and not exposed to air. Some types of produce, like tomatoes, may actually lower in quality when refrigerated.

Educate yourself about proper produce storage so that you can be a smarter consumer. Furthermore, you’ll be able to make your produce last longer and taste better at home!

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