What Frost Buildup Might Mean In Grocery Store Freezers

Grocery stores are supposed to provide safe, quality food to customers, but unfortunately, they are not immune to problems, including issues that mean you should avoid buying their products. For example, the next time you're browsing the frozen aisles looking for a tasty frozen dinner, note how clear the freezer doors are. If they have any frost buildup, it could be a sign you should buy your ice cream somewhere else.

According to Bruce Ferree of the Food Safety & Quality Management Division at the Institute of Food Technologists and Food Safety Consultant, "Frost buildup on the inside of cold displays indicates that a door is not sealing, and the temperature may not be maintained properly." (via Yahoo Life). This can lead to decreased quality of frozen items, and depending on how long they've been sitting at a less-than-ideal temperature, may even make certain items unsafe to eat.

A frozen item is more likely to spoil the more it is exposed to temperatures above zero degrees Fahrenheit. It can be risky to take a chance on spoiled food, so if a freezer door has frost buildup, think twice about buying what's inside.

Frost occurs when the door doesn't close properly

Determining if a frozen item is still good to buy, Ferree recommends keeping an eye out for the thermometers that often accompany the frozen and refrigerated aisles at many grocery stores. He says that "refrigerated [cases] should be less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while frozen [cases] should be near zero degrees Fahrenheit." If the cases don't reach these temperatures, it is a good indicator that the food inside is not properly cooled.

It is worth noting that frost buildup inside freezers differs from freezer burn, which is when food items develop a layer of frost after being frozen for a long time. Freezer burn can affect the taste and texture of food, but it does not make it any less safe to eat.

The hope when grocery shopping is that everything you need will be readily available, but sometimes things like improperly closing freezer doors get in the way. If you do notice a frozen aisle with a lot of frost buildup, it may pay off to tell an employee about the problem. That way, they can fix it, and everything will be as it should the next time you shop.