Following safe food handling practices at home is a good idea to prevent spoilage and foodborne illness, but it won’t do you much good if you bring home a product that has already been contaminated at the store from which you bought it. Signs of proper food safety practices to look for at the store include:
- Store cleanliness. The floors, shelves, and display cases should be clean.
- Sanitizer dispensers and/or disinfectant towelettes to wipe down the grocery cart should be present (usually near the store’s entrance).
- Plastic storage bags should be made available near raw meat and poultry cases. Placing your prepackaged raw meat or poultry into one of these bags will provide a barrier, preventing cross-contanimation with other items in your cart. Paper towels to wipe up accidental spills of juices from these products and hand sanitizer should be present as well.
- Perishables – such as produce, dairy, meats, poultry, and fish – should show signs of freshness. Stocked nonperishables should not be expired.
- Bakery and deli counter workers should wear disposable gloves and proper head wear (so that loose hairs don’t contaminate products).
- Refrigerator and freezer sections should be set at proper temperatures to maintain the quality and safety of the products they contain.
- Self-serve counters, such as salad bars, should have serving utensils for each item as well as a means by which to keep products at safe temperatures (e.g., soup should be hot and lettuce cold) and all items should be properly covered. Disposable gloves should be readily available for consumers interested in grabbing for themselves items from the bakery bins (e.g., donuts, bagels, pastries, etc.,).
A store that follows these practices is a store that is invested in the best interest of its customers. If your store is lacking in these qualities, express your concerns to the manager. If no change is made, find a different store. Proper health isn’t just attained from the nutrients found in the foods that you eat, but by the contaminants that are kept out of it.
Do you use self-serve counters at your grocery store? If so, how does your market keep the items protected? Share with us, we want to know!
Sources for more information
American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, third edition, Duyff, R.