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Three practical tips when choosing packaged food at the supermarket

If you want to avoid any nasty surprises when you come to make lunch or dinner, while you’re still in the supermarket you need to check that the packaging of food you’re buying is intact and in perfect condition. Here are three useful tips to help you.

When you buy glass bottles or jars of sieved tomatoes, preserves or jam: press down on the centre of the lid, if the airtight seal is intact, it won’t depress or click, and you can be sure the product has been preserved properly. The airtight seal can be lost due to mishandling of jars, whether during transport or stocking on shelves, for example as a result of minor bumps. As soon as air enters the bottle or jar, the contents can no longer be guaranteed to be sterile, so don’t buy them!

When you buy packs of fresh pasta or other food in sealed trays, inspect the top sheet of plastic: if it appears slightly shrunk and crushed it means that the modified atmosphere produced during packaging is intact; if, on the other hand, the package appears swollen, this may indicate a small hole in the plastic which has allowed air to enter, so don’t buy it!  You can also try shaking the package, for example in the case of fresh pasta it should never be completely free to move around, and if it is then it means that the air inside the package is the same as that outside, so don’t buy it because the presence of oxygen is what enables the growth of mould on the product. Air may have got inside due to a faulty seal of the plastic film on top, or as a result of impact with sharp items which have produced a tiny hole, or when the package fell from the supermarket shelf at some point, damaging a corner.

When you buy canned foods make sure the cans are in perfect condition, in other words never buy any which are dented, wet, rusty, perforated or damaged in any way whatsoever. It’s best to go to shops where these items are displayed on clean, neat shelves, which is an indication of how carefully products are handled in their warehouse too.

Lastly, a golden rule is always to check the expiry date and read the label with the ingredients, storage and cooking instructions carefully, so there are no nasty surprises when you get home and unpack your shopping.

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