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Food Safety Month: Defense Commissary Agency reminds its patrons to use the guidelines of “Be Food Safe” when they handle their groceries

FORT LEE, Va., 2015-9-16 — /EPR Retail News/ — Gambling with food safety is a bet you cannot afford to lose. According to, one in six Americans will fall ill this year from food poisoning, with 100,000 going to the hospital and 3,000 people dying each year.

Commissaries have layers of food safety protection to help keep foodborne illnesses away from their customers. However, once patrons purchase their groceries and go home, who is on the clock for food safety?

With September being Food Safety Month, the Defense Commissary Agency is reminding its patrons to use the guidelines of “Be Food Safe” when they handle their groceries.

” ‘Be Food Safe’ is an effective and simple process for commissary patrons to help protect themselves from foodborne illnesses while they transport their groceries and once they bring their purchases home,” said Army Col. Michael A. Buley, director of the Defense Commissary Agency’s public health and safety directorate. “A momentary lapse in food safety vigilance can turn a delicious meal into a trip to the doctor’s office.”

“Effective food safety is a continuous, nonstop process that begins with farmers, continues with suppliers and retailers, and ends with the consumer,” said Chris Wicker, a public health advisor at DeCA headquarters.

The “Be Food Safe” message is simple: clean, separate, cook and chill. The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service recommend the following safe handling techniques:


  • Wash hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to prepare the next item.
  • Food contact surfaces can be sanitized with a freshly made solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.


  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart and in your refrigerator.
  • If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.


  • Cook poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 F as measured with a food thermometer.


  • Chill food promptly and properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours (or one hour if temperatures are above 90 F).

Wicker said one often overlooked part of food safety is the manner in which commissary patrons move their groceries from the store checkout to their refrigerator.

“Germs in a dirty reusable shopping bag, leaving perishables without a cooler in a hot car for an extended period of time, and failing to separate foods that can cross contaminate – all of these factors and more can lead to a food safety disaster,” he said.

A few more tips for handling food safely can be found at

  • Use hand sanitizer to wipe hands and the handle of the shopping cart.
  • Clean hands before sampling food. Either bring moist towelettes or carry a bottle of hand sanitizer to use before you taste.
  • If you use reusable grocery bags, wash them often.
  • Check food packages for holes, tears or openings. Frozen foods should be solid with no signs of thawing.
  • Check for a loose lid on jars whose seals seem tampered with or damaged. Report a defective cap to the store manager.
  • Avoid buying cans that are deeply dented, bulging, rusting or have a dent on either the top or side seam.
  • Use plastic bags to separate raw meat, poultry and seafood before placing them in your cart to avoid contaminating ready-to-eat foods like bread or produce.
  • When shopping, select perishable foods last before checkout and group them together.
  • Take groceries home immediately and store them right away. If on an extended trip, bring a cooler with chill packs for perishable foods. Perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours and only one hour if it is over 90 F outside.
  • Keep perishable foods out of the hot trunk in summer and place in the air-conditioned car instead.

For more food safety information, you can visit our Food Safety page. You can also look at our Health/Food Safety links on our Links page to see a list of websites on the latest health and safety reports and information from other agencies.

To find the latest food safety alerts and product recalls affecting military commissaries, visit our Food Recalls page.

For more food handling techniques, visit

Note: Please access the following link for a video related to this news release:


About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings amounting to thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.

Media Contact:
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773

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