Five New Hidden Health Hazard Supermarket Secrets You Need to Know

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Dr. Oz Show special guest Roy Costa—a food safety inspector with 30 years of experience in the food industry—shares his insider secrets with Dr. Oz and his viewers about what goes on in supermarkets that can put you and your family’s health at risk.

When asked how is it possible that most supermarket customers do not know about the kinds of hidden hazards that lurk in supermarkets while buying food, Mr. Costa explains that it has a lot to do with what the supermarket personnel see as their main goal—to make food buying a pleasurable experience, but sometimes at the cost of safety.

“I’ve been on the other side of the picture for quite some time and so I’ve got inside information. Now most of the time, the supermarket people just want the consumer to have a good time in the supermarket,”
says Mr. Costa. “They don’t want them to be thinking about quality or safety, it’s sort of like a given.”

As examples of what hidden hazards to look for, the following is a summary of supermarket secrets that Mr. Roy Costa and Dr. Oz believe that you need to know—and what you can do about them to protect yourself while shopping for food.


Supermarket Secret 1: Toe the Line at the Egg Carton “Cold Line”

Eggs need to be stored at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler to prevent the risk of harmful bacteria growth. To help supermarket employees know how to safely shelve eggs in the open air freezers, the manufacturers of the freezers place a “cold line,” also known as the “load limit,” which can be seen as a colored line or colored dots inside the walls of the cooler. The recommendation is that the supermarkets are not supposed to stack the eggs above the line so that the eggs remain at a cool, safe temperature. If you open a carton of eggs and see sweat on the shells’ surface, then the eggs are likely at too high of a temperature.

Mr. Costa’s recommendation is that to ensure you are choosing cool eggs, to pick the cartons that are stacked on the lower layers where they are in coolest part of an open air freezer/cooler.

Supermarket Secret 2: Freeze/Thaw Cycles Bad for Food

Those bagels, muffins, and baguettes from your supermarket bakery, may not be as fresh as the supermarket would lead you to believe. As it turns out, many bread items are frozen for up to a year before being “parbaked” at the bakery section of the supermarket and then placed on a rack for sale. While generally safe to eat, the flavor you get for your money is going to be subpar.

What is more of a health hazard, however, is when the meat you buy has gone through repeated freeze/thaw cycles. Meat shipped to the supermarket arrives frozen and is then thawed for sale and made to look fresh. The temptation to the customer is to buy extra meat and then freeze it away for later use.

Dr. Oz’s and Mr. Costa’s recommendation is that you only buy enough meat at a time to cook within a day or two and not to refreeze extra meat for later.

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Supermarket Secret 3: Tricky lighting special effects

One dirty secret used by some supermarkets is to apply special lighting over the food to enhance the appearance of the food. For vegetables, a green light or filter is placed about the produce to make it look greener and hence fresher to the consumer. Meat, likewise, is kept under a red light or filter to make it more appealing. While the practice of intentional lighting to enhance the appearance of food is a food code violation, it is one that is difficult to enforce and therefore still occurs in some supermarkets.

Dr. Oz and Mr. Costa recommend that you remove the produce or meat from the shelf, allow your eyes time to adjust, and then look at the food under normal lighting conditions before deciding if it is as fresh as it appears on the shelf.

Supermarket Secret 4: Date-Changing the Use-By Date

Think that the expiration use-by date guarantees freshness? Think again! Foods that come with a use-by date established by a manufacturer cannot be changed. However, the used-by dates placed on food that is processed and packaged by the supermarket can be date-changed until the product sells! Unfortunately this is not a health code violation, which puts consumers at an increased risk of buying food that has either gone bad or will go bad in a very short time.

According to Mr. Costa, there is no way to know how many times a food item has been date-changed except by asking your grocer and hoping for an honest answer.

Supermarket Secret 5: Avoid Mondays, Shop Wednesdays

According to The Dr. Oz Show special guest Frances Largeman-Roth, RD and health expert, Monday mornings are the worst day and time to shop for food. She explains that supermarket food suppliers typically only deliver during the work week and that what is left on the shelves Monday morning are the older, leftover pickings from the weekend that were passed over from weekend shoppers. The best day to shop for food is the days when fresher food is delivered, which is typically by Wednesday.

For an informative article about one supermarket health hazard at home that you need to be aware of, follow this link to an article titled “Remember to Wash Your Reusable Grocery Bags.”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: The Dr. Oz Show—“Secrets Your Supermarket Doesn't Want You to Know”

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