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Consumer Reports' tips on preserving groceries in a hot car

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Posted at 11:24 AM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 12:24:18-04

(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — We've had some hot days this summer, and while the heat is good if you're going to the swimming pool or lake, it's not good if you're going to the grocery store.

You do your weekly grocery shopping and load up on food, but if that food sits in your car for long or even on your counter, especially in the summer heat, bacteria can spread, which can make you sick. Consumer Reports has some simple things you can do to save your food.

Your parked car can get hot. Even when the temperature outside is in the 70s, 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 also 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,” said Trisha Calvo with Consumer Reports.

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.

When you get home, don’t dawdle, especially on hot days. You want to get those groceries out of your car, inside and put away as soon as possible.