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How to keep groceries safe in a hot car

Generic roceries, supermarket, checkout, food, grocery store
Posted at 7:41 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 07:43:29-04

Many of us have experienced record-breaking heat this summer. We might not like it, but bacteria love it since it speeds their growth, and on food that can lead to food poisoning.

So how can you safely get your groceries home when the heat is on? Consumer Reports food safety experts reveal some simple tips to save your food and keep your cool.

Sonia Fujimori shops for groceries twice a week. And she always brings an insulated bag to keep her food chilled until she drives home.

“The bag helps me because everything in here is cold, it’s insulated and it has a longer time that it can stay cold and frozen and gives me a little more time to get home," Fujimori said.

Your parked car can get pretty hot. Even when the temperature outside is in the 70’s, the temperature inside a car can quickly heat to over 120-degrees.

But it doesn’t even take extreme heat to ruin your food. According to the USDA, some bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses can double in number every 20 minutes at room temperature - so imagine what can happen in a hot car.

How can you keep your food fresh, and your family from getting sick? Consumer Reports says step one is planning ahead.

First - avoid the heat. Try to shop in the morning, when it’s cooler.

Insulated bags with cold packs are great for keeping cold and frozen items chilled until you get them home.

Meat, poultry and fish are at the highest risk for food poisoning. Don’t let them sit in your cart while you shop. Ask for a bag of ice at the fish counter, and to avoid cross-contamination, bag meats separately.

“Many people go to several grocery stores in a single trip. If you make multiple stops, make your last stop where you buy your meat and poultry. That way, you minimize the amount of time these foods spend unrefrigerated,” Trisha Calvo wihh Consumer Reports said.

For the ride home, CR auto experts say this is the best way to cool down a hot car.

Once you start driving, open all the windows. Turn on the AC and crank the fan. Once the cold air starts, close the front windows, but leave the back ones partially open for about 20 seconds. This will allow the hot air to escape out the back of your car.

And when you get home, Consumer Reports says don’t dawdle. Especially on hot days, unpack and put your perishables away as soon as possible.