Cleanliness is the End Game

Articles
February 17, 2010

Cleanliness is the End Game

Soda drinkers in and around Roanoke, Va., fast-food restaurants got nasty little extras in their beverages recently, found a Hollins University study—

Soda drinkers in and around Roanoke, Va., fast-food restaurants got nasty little extras in their beverages recently, found a Hollins University study - that should have lit a fire under restaurant operators and supermarkets that want no such bacterial issues affecting their shoppers.

Researchers found coliform bacteria, which is usually fecal in origin, in 48% of 90 samples taken. They also identified E.coli in 11% of samples, and Chryseobacterium  meningosepticum in 17% of samples, according to the report in the January issue of International Journal of Food Microbiology.  “The large number of beverages and soda fountain machines containing E.coli is of considerable concern…and suggests that more pathogenic strains of bacteria could persist and thrive in soda fountain machines if introduced,” wrote the study’s authors, led by Renee Godard, professor of biology and environmental studies at Hollins U.  They couldn’t say for certain how the bacteria were introduced to the fountains.

Combine that report with a new Consumer Reports finding that 39% of packaged leafy green salad samples exceeded 10,000 colony forming units per gram of total coliform bacteria, as did 23% of samples exceed that level for Enterococcus.  The closer to the use-by date (one to five days), the higher the bacteria levels; packages six to eight days from their use-by date had less incidence.

It seems not to matter if foods are exposed or packaged; bacterial threats can lurk anywhere.

We do understand that retailers have their sanitation guidelines in place. However, since the store’s success and shoppers’ health ride on cleanliness, SupermarketGuru.com urges attention to even the smallest details to minimize the chance of harboring potentially harmful bacteria. Consider the sprayers in the produce department that look like rain. Are their tips and nozzles cleaned? Is the water filtered or unfiltered? If unfiltered, what might it be spreading?

How often do deli clerks change or clean their aprons? Do any food handlers that wear gloves also handle money with their gloves on? Are staffers that unload trucks trained to examine the cleanliness of packages coming into the store?  Are they alert to insect interlopers? No detail is too small to deserve attention.