Study: Germs Spread Quickly at the Supermarket

When doing your routine grocery shopping, how often do you handle raw poultry packages without using an extra plastic bag?

According to a new study sponsored by the USDA, most of us do not use this precautionary measure, leading raw poultry juices to quickly spread to our shopping carts and other food items.

The study, recently presented by Dr. Edgar Chambers of Kansas State University during the 2014 International Association of Food Protection (IAFP), followed 96 shoppers across three states.

Some of the stores visited were small family-owned grocers, and others were national chains. The shoppers knew they were part of a study, but did not know what was being studied.

Researchers followed these shoppers as they did their groceries to track their habits when dealing with raw poultry, and then swabbed the surfaces of their carts and other food items – and also their children – after shopping was complete. Results showed that less than 20 percent of the shoppers used a store-provided plastic bag or a hand sanitizer after touching packages of raw poultry.

The study also found that 49 percent of the shoppers touched a dry good item after the raw poultry packages without cleansing their hands. Within three touches, 85 percent of them had touched a shopping cart, 33 percent touched other meat products, and 31 percent touched their personal items – and their kids – all with raw poultry juices in tow.

This discovery is disturbing due to the fact that earlier this year, Consumer Reports analyzed raw chicken samples and found that 97 percent housed potentially harmful bacteria.

Among the samples, 43 percent carried Campylobacter and 11 percent carried Salmonella. This bacteria can be transferred by raw poultry juices to everything it comes in contact with. According to this study, that’s quite a lot of items, and people.

There is some good news: the researchers found that over 85 percent of the stores had plastic bags available for use near the raw poultry section, and 82 percent placed the raw poultry in separate bags at the checkout counter. However, the researchers found that once they got home, most people placed the raw poultry packages directly in the freezer or fridge, sans bag.

During the IAFP presentation, Dr. Chambers recommended that all shoppers utilize the plastic bags provided when dealing with raw poultry, taking care not to touch packages directly. He also stated that hand sanitizers should be used after handling raw poultry and meats, and that these items should always be put in a separate bag in the fridge or freezer.

While this is good advice, we want to add a note on antibacterial hand sanitizers: as we recently reported, these products may contain potentially harmful chemicals, and may actually be contributing to the epidemic of antibiotic resistance.

Packaged Whole ChickenYou can still keep your hands clean and keep germs from spreading without it: simply use an extra plastic bag when handling raw poultry or other meats.

To disinfect your hands (and the hands of your kids) as you shop, all you need is a little spray bottle (or squeeze bottle) of witch hazel: it is a natural, non-drying antiseptic that does not contain the chemicals of antibacterial hand gels.

– The Alternative Daily


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