Health | Did You Know

The Scary Reason Why You Should Stop Leaving Your Groceries In A Hot Car

The Frugal Girl

The cost of groceries can easily add up which is why most people like to look around for the best deals ahead of time.

Being a savvy shopper can help you save hundreds of dollars, but it also means you will most likely be making stops at more than one store during your weekly shopping trip.

A 2017 research showed that 76% of weekly shoppers visit more than one retailer when buying groceries, and 67% of them go to at least two to three retailers per trip.


Of course, there are many pros to doing so, including scoring more items for low prices, but there is also one major con that many of us overlook.

Shopping at multiple stores means that the groceries we purchase first end up spending a lot of time in the car, and when you're dealing with a heat wave, like many states have been experiencing this summer, you're putting your health at risk by doing this.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, on a hot, sunny day the temperature inside your car can soar up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit. So when you leave the food you just purchased in the trunk or back seat, you turn them into the perfect warm and humid breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Raw meat and other perishable products shouldn't be left outside for more than two hours, otherwise there's a high chance that you end up with food poisoning when you eat it.

"Heat is a good medium for bacteria growth, so you want to minimize it as much as you can," advises Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of the nonprofit public health organization STOP Foodborne Illness. "The less time you have between shopping and going home, the better."

The officials at the United States Department of Agriculture urge shoppers to refrigerate their purchases within an hour after leaving the store.

What can you do if need more time?

If you're unable to make it back home within an hour, don't fret, there are a few things you can get into the habit of doing to help prevent your fresh groceries from going bad so quickly.

  • Run all your other errands before you go to the grocery store.

  • Try parking in a shady area to keep your car's temperature low for as long as possible.

  • Invest in an insulated bag and use it during and after shopping to keep your food cool. If you're going to be shopping for more than two hours, place an ice pack in the cooler bag with the perishables.

  • Buy raw meat, frozen goods, and dairy products last.

  • Always bag meat, fish and vegetables separately to avoid cross-contamination.

  • If you can, keep your groceries inside the car instead of the trunk. Even if you don't have air conditioner, the passenger area will still be cooler than the scorching hot trunk.

While these may seem like a hassle, it beats getting food poisoning, which can lead to hospitalization or even death.

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Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.